The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • H. C. Recktenwald
Reference work entry


Cameralism is the specific version of mercantilism taught and practised in the German principalities (Kleinstaaten) in the 17th and 18th centuries. Becher (1635–82), von Justi (1717–71) and von Sonnenfels (1732–1817) are the principal figures who contributed to a vast cameralist literature of about 14,000 titles (Humpert, 1935). The subject matter of Kameralismus reflected the political and economic phenomena and problems in the German territorial states. As a branch of ‘science’ it is a fiscal Kunstlehre, that is, the practical art of how to govern an autonomous territory efficiently and justly via financial measures designed to fill the state’s treasury. Its subject matter includes economic policy, legislation, administration and public finance. While there is no unifying analytical foundation of cameralism, it did develop in two distinct phases (a younger and an older branch) with varied emphasis on its different elements, and since the rising state was, in theory and reality, the focus and ultima ratio of political, economic and ethical (occasionally promotive) speculation, cameralism takes on a unitary form (Gestalt) only when viewed in retrospect.


Becher, J. J. Cameralism Fiscal jurisprudence Justi, J. H. G. Von Mercantilism Sonnenfels, J. Von Utilitarianism 

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  1. Becher, J.J. 1668. Politischer Diskurs. Frankfurt/Main: Bielcke.Google Scholar
  2. Humpert, M. 1935–7. Bibliographie der Kameralwissenschaften. Cologne: Schroeder. (Includes nearly 14,000 items.)Google Scholar
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  9. von Sonnenfels, J. 1765–76. Grundsätze der Polizei, Handlungs- und Finanzwissenschaft. Vienna: Camesina.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. C. Recktenwald
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