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, and yet his 1922 lectures on economics are surely paradigmatic in that Steiner's primary concern is with the need to think economically (see Literature and Publications).
In his introduction to the lectures, entitled ‘Rudolf Steiner, Economist’, Christopher Houghton Budd places Steiner on the map by surveying his overall work and main ideas in the fields of economics and finance, as well as his direct experiences in business life. Themes range from Steiner’s epistemology of economics (generally known as associatIve economics) and the responsibility economists have for society at large, to commentary on the key events of his time – notably the Treaty of Versailles and Marx’s role in 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 argues 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.