Steiner’s main work on economics is a seminal course of lectures given in 1922 and published in English originally as World Economy, and then in revised editions (1993, 1996, 2014) entitled Economics – the World as One Economy.

Rudolf Steiner and economics

Rudolf Steiner is not often referred to as an economist, at least not in the Anglo-Saxon world where much of modern economics has its locus. But his 1922 lectures on economics are surely paradigmatic in that Steiner's primary concern is with the need to think economically. The ground for saying this is given if one surveys Steiner's overall work and main ideas in the fields of economics and finance, as well as his experiences in business life. Themes addressed by him both conceptually and practically range from the appropriate way of thinking in economics and the responsibility economists have for society at large, to commentary on the key events of his time – in particular the Treaty of Versailles which in many ways remains the pivot of all subsequent history.

Steiner's approach assumes the evolution of consciousness, an idea largely absent from economics. For this reason, his contribution to economics has a sophistication that matches the complexity of modern economic life. Introducing ideas that entail relatively little by way of new terminology, Steiner indicates that humanity has entered upon a one-world economy, a development that requires us to grasp the economic process through its inherent dynamic. Today especially, this needs to be done by understanding the nature of money (that there are three kinds, not only three functions) and by working associatively. Understanding what all this means in detail and in practice is a key part of the work of the Economics Conference.

Steiner's approach is generally known as 'associative economics'. It assumes that since the beginning of the 20th century humanity has entered a new stage of societal development characterised by three autonomously governed spheres (spiritual life, rights life and economic life), the last of which, economic life, transcends the prior but still existing stages of private and national economics.

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