The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Cattaneo, Carlo (1801–1861)

  • R. P. Bellamy
Reference work entry


Cattaneo was a leading spokesman for social and political reform in his native Lombardy. A polymath, he made important contributions to history, geography, linguistics and philosophy and took a prominent role in politics, as well as writing on economics and engaging in various business ventures. However, he preferred the title of economist to all others, and a concern with economic reform runs through his work. An admirer of Charles Bonet, a follower of Condillac, he developed his own theory of human progress from barbarism to civility. At the heart of his thesis was a sensationalist epistemology adapted from Vico, which he called the psychology of associated minds. He argued that if individuals were allowed to experience sufficient contrasting ideas and situations then humankind would gradually improve and both our needs and the means of satisfying them infinitely multiply. He was therefore a staunch advocate of both political liberty and free trade, which he regarded as linked. He criticized the feudal privileges and economic nationalism of the period, calling for the abolition of the decrees against the Jews and opposing the protectionist doctrines of Friedrich List, but defended private property as an inalienable right essential to individual liberty and vehemently attacked socialist proposals for public ownership, especially Proudhon’s.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Ambrosoli, L. 1960. La Formazione di Carlo Cattaneo. Milan/Naples: Ricciardi.Google Scholar
  2. Greenfield, K.R. 1965. Economics and Liberalism in the Risorgimento: A study of nationalism in Lombardy 1814–48, Rev. ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  3. Lovett, C.M. 1972. Carlo Cattaneo and the politics of the Risorgimento. The Hague: Nijhoff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. P. Bellamy
    • 1
  1. 1.