Gunnar Myrdal: Wikis


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Gunnar Myrdal

c. 1937
Born 6 December 1898(1898-12-06)
Gustafs, Dalarna, Sweden
Died 17 May 1987 (aged 88)
Danderyd, Sweden
Nationality Sweden
Fields Economics
Institutions Stockholm School of Economics Stockholm University
Known for Monetary equilibrium
Notable awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1974)[1]

Karl Gunnar Myrdal (6 December 1898 – 17 May 1987) was a Swedish economist, politician, and Nobel laureate. In 1974, with Friedrich Hayek, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for "their pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena."[1]



Early years

Myrdal was born on 6 December 1898 in Skattungbyn (now Orsa Municipality, Dalarna County) and went on to graduate with a law degree from Stockholm University in 1923 and, in 1927, a doctorate in economics.


He was a Social Democratic Member of Parliament from 1933 and Trade Minister from 1945 to 1947 in Tage Erlander's government.

Gunnar Myrdal himself is known for his 1944 study, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, which influenced the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education to outlaw racial segregation in public schools. Myrdal was also a signatory of the 1950 UNESCO statement The Race Question, which also influenced the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

In Gunnar Myrdal's doctoral dissertation, published in 1927, he examined the role of expectations in price formation. His analysis strongly influenced the Stockholm school. Gunnar Myrdal was at first fascinated by the abstract mathematical models coming into fashion in the 1920s and helped found the Econometric Society, based in London.

Later, however, he accused the movement of ignoring the problem of distribution of wealth in its obsession with economic growth, of using faulty statistics and substituting Greek letters for missing data in its formulas and of flouting logic.

Similarly, Mr. Myrdal was early in supporting the theses of John Maynard Keynes, maintaining that the basic idea of adjusting national budgets to slow or speed an economy was first developed in Sweden by him and the Stockholm school.

He was professor of economics at the Stockholm School of Economics from 1933 to 1947 and simultaneously a Social Democratic Member of Parliament.

He coauthored with his wife, Alva Myrdal, the Crisis in the Population Question (Swedish: Kris i befolkningsfrågan, 1934). The basic premise of Crisis in the Population Question is to find what social reforms are needed to allow for individual liberty (especially for women) while also promoting child-bearing. While heralding many sweeping social reforms seen as positive for Sweden, the book also incorporated some of the zeitgeist of the 1930s, in its promotion of the idea of eugenics and compulsory sterilization programs[2], which were actually practiced in Sweden until 1975.

Gunnar Myrdal then became Trade Minister from 1945 to 1947. For the next 10 years he was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe after which Asia and third world poverty commanded his attention for a while. His research about Asia and the causes of poverty resulted in his influential study "Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations" (1968). Between 1960 and 1967 he was professor of international economics at Stockholm University. In 1961, he founded the Institute for International Economic Studies at the university. He shared the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences (otherwise known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) with Friedrich Hayek in 1974, but argued for its abolition because it had been given to such "reactionaries" as Hayek and Milton Friedman.[3]

Myrdal is perhaps even more known for his influential and landmark book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, originally published in 1944 and commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation (which was surprising since this institution was a massive supporter of eugenics until 1939). The "American dilemma" is between high ideals on the one hand and poor performance on the other: in the two generations or more since the Civil War, the U.S. had not been able to put its human rights ideals into practice for the black (or Negro) tenth of its population. This comprehensive study of sociological (including economic), anthropological and legal data on black-white race relations in the U.S. was begun in 1938, after Myrdal was selected by the Carnegie Corporation to direct the study. It should be noted here that Myrdal planned on doing a similar study on the question of gender instead of race; however, he could not find the funding for this project so he never completed it.

His scientific influence was not exclusively limited to economics. Through the introduction to "Asian Drama" with the title "The Beam in our Eyes" (a biblical reference; cf. Matthew 7:1–2) he introduced the approach mentioned as scientific relativism of values. This behavioral approach is narrowly connected to behavioralism and is built on the idea that the logical gulf between "is" and "ought" is more sophisticated than just dividing premises into categories. The articles edited in "Value in Social Theory" underlines Myrdals importance to political science. As political science normally is considered more descriptive as economics one might get the idea that Myrdal should not have dealt systematically with the values applied to economics. On the contrary, Myrdal connected social science, political science and economics as a practitioner.

Myrdal published many other notable works, both before and after this most notable work and, among many other contributions to social and public policy, founded and chaired the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Internationally revered as a father-figure of social policy, he contributed to social democratic thinking throughout the world, in collaboration with friends and colleagues in the political and academic arenas. Sweden and Britain were among the pioneers of a welfare state and books by Myrdal (Beyond the Welfare State - New Haven, 1958) and Richard Titmuss (Essays on “The Welfare State” - London, 1958) unsurprisingly explore similar themes. Myrdal's theoretical key concept "circular cumulative causation" contributed to the development of modern Non-equilibrium economics [1].

Personal life

Myrdal was married to politician and diplomat Alva Myrdal in 1924, and together had two daughters, Kaj Fölster (mother of Stefan Fölster) and Sissela Bok, and a son, Jan Myrdal, Myrdal died in Danderyd, near Stockholm.

See also


  • Crisis in the Population Question. 1934.
  • The Political Element in the Development of Economic Theory.
  • Fiscal Policy in the Business Cycle - The American Economic Review, vol 21, no 1, Mar 1939.
  • Population, a Problem for Democracy. The Godkin Lectures, Published by Harvard University Press, 1940.
  • Contact With America (Kontakt med Amerika) - 1941[4]
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Published by Harper & Bros, 1944.
  • Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem – Phylon, Vol. 9, No. 3, 3rd Quarter, 1948
  • Conference of the British Sociological Association, 1953. II Opening Address: The Relation between Social Theory and Social Policy The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 4, No. 3, Sept. 1953.
  • An International Economy, Problems and Prospects Published by Harper & Brothers Publishers 1956.
  • Economic theory and Underdeveloped Regions, published by Gerald Duckworth 1957
  • Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology. Edited by Paul Streeten, published by Harper, 1 1958.
  • Beyond the Welfare State. Published by Yale University Press, 1960.
  • Challenge to Affluence. Published by Random House, 1963.
  • America and Vietnam – Transition, No. 3, Oct, 1967.
  • Twenty Years of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – International Organization, Vol 22, No. 3, Summer, 1968.
  • Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations.
  • The Challenge of World Poverty.
  • Gunnar Myrdal on Population Policy in the Underdeveloped World – Population and Development Review, Vol 13, No. 3, Sept. 1987.
  • The Equality Issue in World Development - The American Economic Review, vol 79, no 6, Dec 1989.


  1. ^ a b, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1974 retrieved 2009-11-27
  2. ^ 2005 Czech report on compulsory sterilization (see section on Sweden) (English)
  3. ^ Brittan, Samuel (2003-12-19), "The not so noble Nobel Prize", Financial Times,, retrieved 2009-11-26  
  4. ^ Gene Robers and Hank Klibanoff; The Race Beat: The Press, The Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. 2006. USA.

External links

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