Rethinking Economics

Lectures and Seminars on World Economics (CW 340/341)

Rethinking Economics
Rudolf Steiner By (author)
Christopher Bamford Introduction by
Otto Scharmer Foreword by
Mark Finser Preface by
Peter Clemm Translated by
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14 lectures in Dornach, July 14-August 6, 1922 (CW 340)
6 seminars in Dornach, July 31-August 5, 1922 (CW 341)

“In this age of social, economic, and ecological disruption, many people are beginning to realize that perhaps the most important root causes for this crisis originate in an economic thinking that is increasingly out of touch with the social, ecological, and spiritual realities of our time. How, then, can we rethink and redefine the fundamental economic concepts that frame our discussions and shape our key institutions in society today? This is the big question on the table today. Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on economics ... offer a largely unused gold mine of fresh economic ideas that could not be more timely and relevant” (from the foreword).

“The whole Earth, considered as an economic organism, is the social organism. Yet this is not being taken into account anywhere. It is precisely because of this error that the whole science of political economy has grown so remote from reality. People want to establish principles that are meant to apply only to an individual cell. Hence, if you study the French theory of economy, you will find it is constituted different from English or German or other economic theories. But as economists, what we really need is an understanding of the social organism in its totality” (Rudolf Steiner).

Rudolf Steiner gave this complex sequence of dense, subtle, multileveled lectures and seminars to students of economics in Dornach, Switzerland, during the summer of 1922. The course reflects a lifetime of thinking on the subject and marks the conclusion of his intense five-year period of activism in the service of social, political, and economic issues. During this time, which began as World War I was ending in 1917, he worked tirelessly to promote the cause of what he called “threefolding” (Dreigliederung), by which he meant rethinking the social order on the basis of clear separation and independence of the three fundamental spheres of activity that make up a society. He proposed three independent systems:

∞ an autonomous rights sphere (limited to judicial and political matters)
∞ an autonomous economic sphere (cooperative or associative by nature)
∞ and an autonomous spiritual-cultural sphere

The autonomy of these three spheres, he believed, would make possible a free, healthy, productive society and open the possibility of a lasting peace.

Rethinking Economics is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the true nature of an economy and how it works. Steiner presents the basic elements of what it would take to create a just, socially responsible, and ecologically aware economy today.



1. The Transition from Industrial, National Economies to a World Economy
2. The Fluid Nature of Economic Processes
3. Economics and Egotism
4. Labor and Value
5. The Production and Consumption
6. Price, Cultural Activity, and Gift
7. Price Formation
8. Supply and Demand
9. Trade, Loan, and Industrial Capital
10. Associations
11. World Economy
12. Money
13. Spiritual-Cultural Needs
14. World Economy: Living Concepts


1. Points of Method and “The Social Question”
2. Economics, Physical Processes, and Concepts of Work
3. The Division of Labor and the Relationship between Consumers and Producers
4. Value and the Nature of Work
5. Capital and the Monetary System
6. The Use of Money; Threefolding the Human Being and the Social Organism

This volume is a translation from German of Aufgaben einer neuen Wirtschaftswissenschaft, Bd.1, Nationalökonomischer Kurs (GA 340) and Aufgaben einer neuen Wirtschaftswissenschaft, Bd.2, Nationalökonomisches Seminar (GA 341), published by by Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, Switzerland.

Author Bio

Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.

Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief for SteinerBooks and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990) and An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (2003). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (1982); Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science; and The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (all published by Lindisfarne Books). HarperSanFrancisco included an essay by Mr. Bamford in its anthology Best Spiritual Writing 2000.

Dr. C. Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founding chair of the Presencing Institute. He chairs the MIT IDEAS program, and co-founded the Global Wellbeing and Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab. He also is a Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on New Leadership Models. He introduced the concept of "presencing"—learning from the emerging future—in his bestselling books Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges (2009) and Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society (2005; co-authored with P. Senge, J. Jaworski, and B. S. Flowers), which have been translated into fifteen languages. His book Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies (co-authored with Katrin Kaufer) applies Theory U to the transformation of business, society, and self.

Mark Finser was a founding member of the group that revitalized RSF in 1984. As President & CEO of RSF, Mark grew the organization’s assets before assuming his role as Chair of the Board of RSF. He brings communities of philanthropists and socially responsible investors together to further RSF’s mission: to transform the way we work with money. Mark is a popular speaker in the US and abroad on the emerging social-finance arena. He is a member of the social finance community as a founding board member and Chairman of New Resource Bank. He is an advisor to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and serves as an Advisor to PCGA, which manages TBL Capital, the company he founded. His interests include biodynamic agriculture, integrative medicine, and meditation. He lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife, Heidi, and their two children, Benjamin and Yohanna.