Karl William Kapp

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Karl William Kapp
Born (1910-10-27)October 27, 1910
Königsberg, East Prussia, Imperial Germany
Died April 4, 1976(1976-04-04) (aged 65)
Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia
Nationality Germany
United States
Field Evolutionary economics, Institutional economics
School or
Institutional economics

Karl William Kapp (October 27, 1910 – April 4, 1976) was a German-American economist and professor of economics at the University of the City of New York and later the University of Basel. Kapp was among the forerunners of ecological economics[1]:417f and one of the leading 20th century institutional economists. He was an opponent of the compartmentalization of knowledge in the social sciences in general.[2]


Kapp was born in Königsberg in 1910 as son of August Wilhelm Kapp, who was a teacher of philosophy. In secondary school at the Hufengymnasium one of his teachers was the poet Ernst Wiechert[3] End 1920s he started studying law and economics at the universities in Berlin and Königsberg. He continued his studies in London and at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, where in 1936 he received a Ph.D in economics with his dissertation „Planwirtschaft und Aussenhandel“.

In Geneva Kapp had met the people of the Frankfurt School, who emigrated to the US and settled as Institute for Social Research at the Columbia University, New York City. In 1937 they granted Kapp a scholarship.[3] From 1938 to 1945 he was an instructor in Economics at the New York University and Columbia University in New York. From 1945 to 1950 he was Assistant Professor of Economics at the Wesleyan University in Middleton, Connecticut.

From 1950 to 1965 he was Professor of Economics at the University of the City of New York. End 1950s he was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research as well as among the founding members of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE). In 1965 he returned to Switzerland and was professor of economics at the University of Basel until 1976. In that time he was also a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne, Paris.

In 1976 Kapp suffered a fatal heart attack during a conference in Dubrovnik, Kroatia.


Kapp's research interests ranged from economics, sociology, policy making and environmental science to the theory of knowledge, the history of economic thought, and many related topics.[4]

Planning debate[edit]

In his 1936 dissertation Planwirtschaft und Aussenhandel contributed to the debate around the economic calculation problem, a criticism of central economic planning. This problem was first proposed by Ludwig von Mises in 1920, expounded by Friedrich Hayek and further debated in the 1920s and 1930s. Kapp argued that a planned economy is "not doomed to autarky because there are ways to deal with the valuation problem so that trade and exchange with market economies can be organized".[3]

See also[edit]


  • 1936, Planwirtschaft und Außenhandel, Genève : Georg & Cie.
  • 1950, The Social Costs of Private Enterprise, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard Univ. Press
  • 1963, The Social Costs of Business Enterprise
  • 1961, Towards a Science of Man in Society – A Positive Approach towards the Integration of Social Knowledge
  • 1958, Volkswirtschaftliche Kosten der Privatwirtschaft. Tübingen : Mohr (Siebeck).
  • 1975, Neue Wege für Bangladesh. Hamburg : Inst. f. Asienkunde
  • 1976, Staatliche Förderung "umweltfreundlicher" Technologien. Göttingen : Schwartz.
  • 2011, The Foundations of Institutional Economics – by K. William Kapp, edited by Sebastian Berger and Rolf Steppacher. Routledge.
About Kapp
  • 2011, Julien-Francois Gerber/Rolf Steppacher (eds) "Towards an Integrated Paradigm in Heterodox Economics". Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • 2012, Sebastian Berger "The Discourse on Social Costs: Kapp's Impossibility Thesis vs. Neoliberalism" in Wolfram Elsner et al. (eds) "Social Costs Today: Institutional Analyses of the Current Crisis", Routlege.
  • 2007, Eyup Ozveren (2007)"Where disciplinary boundaries blur"


  1. ^ Spash, Clive (1999). "The Development of Environmental Thinking in Economics" (PDF). Environmental Values. Cambridge: The White Horse Press. 8: 413–435. doi:10.3197/096327199129341897. 
  2. ^ Kapp (1961), 'Toward a Science of Man in Society' The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  3. ^ a b c Biographical Information K. William Kapp, retrieved 15 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Karl William Kapp 1910–1976, Obituary" in Journal of Economic Issues (1976), nr 09.

External links[edit]