Buddhist Economics and Thailand's Sufficiency Economy

Guest lecture by Professor Donald K. Swearer, Harvard Divinity School.


In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian economic crisis the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy has risen to prominence in national discourse in Thailand inspired, in particular, by its association with His Majesty King Bhumbol Adulyadej. Sufficiency Economy has been hailed by its proponents as an antidote to the excesses of global capitalism, while it has been reviled by opponents as unrealistic utopianism. Others interpret Sufficiency Economy as a form of Buddhist Economics, an expression of the values and principles of Thailand's dominant religion, although critics argue that "Buddhist Economics" is a contradiction in terms. This lecture proposes to to examine and problematize both "Buddhist Economics," and "Sufficiency Economy."


Donald K. Swearer, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, and the Charles & Harriet Cox McDowell Emeritus Professor of Religion, Swarthmore College USA, has published widely in areas of comparative religions and Buddhism in Southeast Asia, particilarly Thailand. His recent books include The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia, 2nd rev. ed. (2009), Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand (2004), and The Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends (2004). His current research focuses on the significance of the philosophy of sufficiency economy (setakit phophieng) in Thailand.

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