Strategic Management Review > Vol 5 > Issue 1-2

Edith Penrose's Approach to Economic Problems as Reflected in The Theory of the Growth of the Firm: A Humanistic Perspective

Angela M. Penrose, Independent Scholar, London, UK,
Suggested Citation
Angela M. Penrose (2024), "Edith Penrose's Approach to Economic Problems as Reflected in The Theory of the Growth of the Firm: A Humanistic Perspective", Strategic Management Review: Vol. 5: No. 1-2, pp 27-50.

Publication Date: 08 Apr 2024
© 2024 now Publishers, Inc.
Corporate strategyentrepreneurship and strategyknowledge, innovation, and technology


Download article
In this article:
California — Early Influences 
Geneva to Montreal 
The London Embassy: Ambassador Winant 
Washington and the Foundation of the UN 
Baltimore and Fritz Machlup 
Canberra and the Hercules Powder Company 
Background Reading 
From Baltimore to Baghdad: The International Petroleum Industry 
Back to London: Development Economics 


The article aims to demonstrate Edith Penrose's distinctive approach to economics, particularly her independence of thought, as reflected in The Theory of the Growth of the Firm. It considers the influences on the evolution of her thinking, and what might be called her humanistic approach, by examining how her personal history contributed to her intellectual development. Humanistic economics was not current in the formative years of Edith's thinking, but there is no doubt that her perspective introduced elements of psychology, moral philosophy, political science, and sociology into traditional economic thought. In her inaugural lecture at School of Oriental and African Studies Penrose elucidated her view that economics was not just a technique of analysis but the application of that technique to real world problems in which many factors other than those admitted in theoretical models must be taken into account.

The confidence to challenge standard theory arose from her personal experience of the turmoil of the twentieth century: working with the International Labour Organisation before World War II, supporting the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom throughout the war years and involvement in the initial planning of the institutions of the United Nations and the influence of exceptional individuals, her husband Ernest F. Penrose, John Winant, and her colleague and collaborator at Johns Hopkins, Fritz Machlup.



Strategic Management Review, Volume 5, Issue 1-2 Special Issue in Honor on Edith Penrose and The Theory of the Growth of the Firm
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.