Archives: Sonnet for the Neighborhood Democratic Caucus. In Honor of Kenneth Ewart Boulding

Paris. Nov. 1994: Kenneth Boulding, 1909-1993, was one of the magisterial figures in the field of social science of the second half of the twentieth century. In the last two years of his life, he took to writing sonnets, 216 in all between 1981 and 1993. We have taken one of these to sound the theme for our collaborative knowledge-building enterprise here on World Streets: “how to turn a heterogeneous caucus into a choir, singing the same good song, So, to democracy all should be turning When it is not just voting, but group learning.”

Sonnet for the Neighborhood Democratic Caucus

They come — a somewhat miscellaneous group
Of people gathered from the neighborhood.
Some may be naive — some are fairly good
At jumping through the somewhat twisted hoop
Of politics — not getting in the soup
Of disagreement, finding where they stood
On touchy issues that might mean they could
Lose the election; learning when to stoop,

And when to stand against a blatant wrong,
When to be quiet, when a little raucous,
And how to turn a heterogeneous caucus
Into a choir, singing the same good song,

So, to democracy all should be turning
When it is not just voting, but group learning.

– Kenneth Boulding, Boulder, Colorado, 14 April 1992

Who was Kenneth Boulding?

Professor Boulding was internationally known for his innovative and sensitive work in the field of economics, Along with the presidency of five other major scholarly societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science ,he was elected as president of the American Economics Association. He taught at universities on three continents, wrote more than thirty significant books and hundreds of articles, pamphlets and papers, and was awarded numerous honors for his work not only as an economist pushing the forefront of his profession, but also as a humanist, futures thinker and major activist in the field of peace and conflict resolution.

Ken Boulding was a profoundly democratic man, a Quaker (the Society of Friends), a loving and diligent work partner with his wife, the eminent Norwegian-born sociologist Dr. Elise Boulding, and both a worrier (about our ability to survive the challenges of the modern world) and an optimist (he decided to dedicate his life to doing something about it anyway).

Books in Print by Kenneth Boulding

The following lists the available titles of books by Ken Boulding from Books in Print. They can be ordered through your local book dealer which is what I am sure he would have preferred) or of course any of the booksellers that ply the net.

• The Future: Images & Processes
• The Future: Images & Prophecies
• National Images & International Systems
• Structure Of A Modern Economy
• There Is A Spirit: The Nayless Sonnets $4.50
• Toward A New Economics
• Three Faces Of Power
• Conflict And Defense
• Economics As A Science
• Meaning Of The 20th Century
• Beyond The Bomb
• Mending The World: Quaker insights on the social order
• Economics Of Human Betterment
• The World As A Total System
• The Organizational Revolution: A Study In The Ethics Of Economic Organization
• Preface To Grants Economics
• Evolutionary Economics
• Disarmament And The Economy
• Ecodynamics: A New Theory Of Societal Evolution
• Redistribution Through The Financial System
• Stable Peace
• Economics Of Peace
• Peace And The War Industry
• Mayer Boulding Dialogue On Peace Research
• The Evolutionary Potential Of Quakerism
• The Image: Knowledge In Life And Society
• New Nations For Old
• Collected Papers Of Kenneth E. Boulding
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Editor – Late night thoughts:

Late last night as I was tossing, turning and thinking about how we are going to be able to find a way to continue World Streets, my thoughts turned to Ken Boulding, who in his latter years also had his active mind at times keeping him up in the middle of the night. What he did often on those occasions was to click on the bedside lamp, pick up a pen and quietly write notes — but also from time to time one more of his several hundred sonnets, including the one you can see here. (His dear wife, Elise Boulding, told me about this when I called to ask her permission concerning the following.)

It was back in late 1994, one year after Professor Boulding’s death, when we were just cranking up the first iteration of our collaborative web presence (see, that I decided to seek permission to dedicate the first year of our new worldwide group learning enterprise and “somewhat miscellaneous group” in honor of Professor Boulding, whose work had marked me deeply back in the days when I was something of an economist stretching for new ideas and clues about why people do the things they do. I contacted his wife, Mrs. Elise Boulding, who kindly gave me permission to do just that.

Today, fifteen full years later and at a time when competence in matters of world peace and conflict resolution have rarely been so important, his poem, his work and his example come to mind. “To democracy all should be turning. When it is not just voting, but group learning.”

That sounds to me much like what you, dear reader, and we are trying to do here. And you will I am sre agree: we have to try a lot harder. This is a challenge we should not fail.

Eric Britton, Paris