IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

K. William Kapp's theory of social costs: A Luhmannian interpretation

Listed author(s):
  • Valentinov, Vladislav

In developing his famous theory of social costs, K. William Kapp claimed to draw inspiration from the theory of open systems. The present paper reconstructs the notion of social costs from the perspective of the Luhmannian theory of autopoietic social systems, an alternative systems-theoretic paradigm. According to Luhmann, these systems build up their internal complexity at the cost of lowering their sensitivity to the complexity of their environment, both societal and ecological. From the Luhmannian perspective, social costs can be understood as those segments of environmental feedback that are thus ignored by social systems. This perspective is not only consistent with Kapp's own vision of social costs as a systematic outcome of private business enterprise, but also even more radical as it traces these costs back to the regime of functional differentiation of society, and thus to human civilization generally. It follows from the Luhmannian perspective that social costs can be reduced by improving the coordination between the individual functional systems, such as economy, law, politics, and science.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 97 (2014)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 28-33

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:97:y:2014:i:c:p:28-33
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.10.014
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Kool, Richard, 2013. "Limits to Growth, environmental science and the nature of modern prophecy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 1-5.
  2. Kapp, K William, 1970. "Environmental Disruption and Social Costs: A Challenge to Economics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(4), pages 833-848.
  3. Nelson, J.A., 2013. "Ethics and the economist: What climate change demands of us," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 145-154.
  4. John Hall & Iciar Dominguez-Lacasa & Jutta Gnther, 2012. "Veblen's Predator and the Great Crisis," Journal of Economic Issues, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 46(2), pages 411-418, June.
  5. Ingebrigtsen, Stig & Jakobsen, Ove, 2012. "Utopias and realism in ecological economics — Knowledge, understanding and improvisation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 84-90.
  6. Vladislav Valentinov, 2013. "Veblen and Instrumental Value: A Systems Theory Perspective," Journal of Economic Issues, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 47(3), pages 673-688, September.
  7. Marshall, Graham R., 2013. "Transaction costs, collective action and adaptation in managing complex social–ecological systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 185-194.
  8. Admiraal, Jeroen F. & Wossink, Ada & de Groot, Wouter T. & de Snoo, Geert R., 2013. "More than total economic value: How to combine economic valuation of biodiversity with ecological resilience," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 115-122.
  9. Ison, Ray & Blackmore, Chris & Iaquinto, Benjamin L., 2013. "Towards systemic and adaptive governance: Exploring the revealing and concealing aspects of contemporary social-learning metaphors," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 34-42.
  10. Birkin, Frank & Polesie, Thomas, 2013. "The relevance of epistemic analysis to sustainability economics and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 144-152.
  11. Berger, Sebastian, 2008. "K. William Kapp's theory of social costs and environmental policy: Towards political ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 244-252, September.
  12. Sebastian Berger, 2008. "Karl Polanyi's and Karl William Kapp's Substantive Economics: Important Insights from the Kapp-Polanyi Correspondence," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 66(3), pages 381-396.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:97:y:2014:i:c:p:28-33. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.