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Production and Economic Classes

  • Brian William Head
Chapter
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees/International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 112)

Abstract

Economics, in Tracy’s theory, is the science which studies “the effects and consequences of our actions considered as means to provide for our needs of all types, from the most material to the most intellectual”.1 Economic science, then, should be distinguished from the traditional connotation of economy as household management, and from its common meaning of carefully managing the goods in one’s possession. The term “political economy” generally meant “the science of the formation and administration of the wealth of a political society”.2 It is true, wrote Tracy, that the science entitled, somewhat improperly, political economy has discovered “some important truths on the effects of property, industry and the causes which favour or hinder the formation and growth of wealth”. But economics really should go back to the origin of our needs and of our power to act, for it is really the study of “the history of the use of our powers for the satisfaction of our needs”.3 (As if to express his dissatisfaction with the term “political economy”, Tracy sometimes used the term “social economy”. However, his major work on economics, Traité de la Volonté (1815), was republished in 1823 under the title Traité d’économie politique.)

Keywords

Political Economy Market Price Eighteenth Century Social Economy Economic Classis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Ibid., p. 437. On the origin of the term political economy, cf. W. Letwin, The Origins of Scientific Economics (Westport, 1975), p. 217; and J.-B. Say, Traite d’economie politique (Paris, 2nd ed. 1814 ), “Discours preliminaire”, pp. xiii–xv.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    R.L. Meek, Studies in the Labour Theory of Value (London, 1958), chapter 1.Google Scholar
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    A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), ed. Skinner (Harmondsworth, 1974 ), pp. 104–6.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
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  5. 16.
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  6. 19.
    Cf. Say, Traite d’economie politique, book 1, chapter 2; M. Dobb, Theories of Value and Distribution (Cambridge, 1973 ), chapter 2; R.L. Meek, Studies in the Labour Theory of Value, chapter 2.Google Scholar
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    Smith, Wealth of Nations, book 2, chapter 3, pp. 430-1. Smith includes churchmen, lawyers and public servants among the “unproductive”.Google Scholar
  8. 35.
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  10. 37.
    Tracy, Traite (1818), pp. 154–5; cf. pp. 290–2. The phrase “frelons de la ruche” (drones of the hive) had previously appeared in Tracy’s Commentaire, p. 294.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Traite, p. 155; cf. Commentaire, p. 287. (For Tracy’s views on the productivity of commerce, cf. Traite, pp. 205–215. He is in accord on this point with Say, op. cit., book 1, chapter 2.)Google Scholar
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    Cf. G.V. Taylor, “Non-capitalist wealth and the origins of the French Revolution”, American Historical Review, vol. 72 (January 1967), pp. 469–496; R. Price, The Economic Modernization of France (London, 1975); F. Braudel and C.E. Labrousse, Histoire economique et sociale de la France, tome III: 1789-annees 1830, vol. I (Paris, 1976 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. E. Allix, “L’oeuvre economique de Germain Gamier”, Revue d’histoire economique et sociale, vol. 15 (1912), pp. 317–342; Allix, “La rivalite entre la propriete fonciere et la fortune mobiliere sous la Revolution”, ibid., vol. 6 (1913), pp. 297–348.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Cambaceres, “Discours sur la science sociale”, Memoires de I’lnstitut National, Classe des sciences morales et politiques, vol. III (1801), pp. 3, 5.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Baudeau, Premiere introduction, in Daire (ed.), Physiocrates, p. 723: “Laissez les faire, as a famous intendant du commerce (Gournay) said, that is the whole of legislation for the manufactures and sterile arts… Qu’on les laisse faire, that is the true legislation, i. e., the function of the guarantor authority”.Google Scholar
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    Cf. the extracts in R.L. Meek (ed.), Precursors of Adam Smith, especially pp. 108ff.Google Scholar
  18. 58.
    For a detailed account of the French and Scottish contributions to the “four-stages” theory of historical development, cf. R.L. Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage (Cambridge, 1976).Google Scholar
  19. 59.
    P. Levesque, “Considerations sur l’homme, observe dans la vie sauvage, dans la vie pastorale et dans la vie police”, Memoires de I’lnstitut, vol. I (1798), pp. 209–246. Levesque (born 1736) did not, however, make a clear distinction between a society whose major “industry” was agriculture and one whose “industry” was increasingly oriented towards manufacturing, commerce and “useful arts”.Google Scholar
  20. 62.
    Tracy, Traite (1818), p. 154. For the origin of “class” terminology, cf. Brunot, Histoire de la langue frangaise, tome VI, pp. 191f.Google Scholar
  21. 63.
    Condillac, Le Commerce et le Gouvernement consideres relativement I’un a I’autre (1776), in Oeuvres philosophiques, vol. II, pp. 241–367. See also I.F. Knight, The Geometric Spirit, chapter 9.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 170–1. Cf. Say, Traite, book 2, chapter 7 (Treatise, pp. 327-9), who claims that the savant is typically underpaid for the important services he provides.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Say, Traite, book 2, chapter 8, section 2 (Treatise, p. 354).Google Scholar
  24. 75.
    M. Dobb, “Entrepreneur”, Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York, 1931), vol. 5.Google Scholar
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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

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  • Brian William Head

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