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In 1767, did Sir James Steuart predict the political and financial crises that started the French Revolution? Étienne de Sénovert, the editor and translator of Steuart’s…
In 1767, did Sir James Steuart predict the political and financial crises that started the French Revolution? Étienne de Sénovert, the editor and translator of Steuart’s work, seems to argue to this effect in the introduction to the first French edition of An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy in 1789. The visionary “prediction” set forth by Steuart was the following: if the king of France had introduced public credit, this would have changed the political balance in French political society, making it very unstable. The English and the French governments used different ways of borrowing money in 1760: the French king contracted debts with a network of financiers close to the government, while the English government borrowed on the credit markets through the intermediary of the Bank of England. The second of these methods constitutes public credit and has proved its efficiency. According to Steuart, implementing the English public credit system in France could have dangerous consequences. Landed interests and moneyed interests would compete for the control of the State. The author realized that the French nobility, the landowners, as a social and economic group would have no chance in facing such a powerful rival (the public creditors). In this chapter, the author analyzes Steuart’s “prediction” as a coherent part of his systematic and original approach to political economy. Steuart’s theories about the role of political economy and the role of “interest” are connected to his understanding of institutions. Introducing such a complex support for the value as public credit might have different consequences in France and England. Steuart thinks each country’s economy should be analyzed according to its own institutional and social context.
Steuart’s work was still relevant in 1789 for two reasons. Firstly, the author’s prediction of political antagonism between capitalists and nobility anticipated the political conflict about debt expressed by pamphleteers such as Sieyès, Mirabeau, and Clavière between 1787 and 1789. This is the context of Étienne de Sénovert’s claim: the political narrative built by the revolutionaries of 1789 (rescuing the “sacred” public debt from royal despotism) fitted Steuart’s prediction. This may have been the incentive for the translation and publication of his work in 1789 and 1790. Secondly, Steuart’s financial and monetary theory was at the heart of the project of financial reform that would lead to the assignats. Steuart’s (1767) theory of public finance and state power in 1789 provides a key to the understanding the events of the time, and to how actors tried to make sense of them. Steuart made another crucial observation about the deep effect of what he called “the modern economy” upon the power of the governments of Europe: even an absolute monarch could not damage public credit without destroying his own sovereignty.
Though contemporaries, Adam Smith and Sir James Steuart are commonly portrayed as if they belonged to different eras. Whereas Smith went down in history as both founder of…
Though contemporaries, Adam Smith and Sir James Steuart are commonly portrayed as if they belonged to different eras. Whereas Smith went down in history as both founder of the science of political economy and patron saint of economic liberalism, Steuart became known as the last, outdated advocate for mercantilist policies in Britain. Smith himself was responsible for popularizing the notion of the “system of commerce” as an approach to political economy that dominated the early modern period. As a historiographical concept, the mercantile system became a misguided international trade theory grounded upon the Midas fallacy and the favorable balance of trade doctrine. Smith’s treatment of international trade in the Wealth of Nations, however, was criticized for its inconsistencies and lack of analytical clarity even by some among his own followers. Given Smith’s doubtful credentials as an international trade theorist, the chapter investigates the reasons that led him and Steuart to be placed on opposite sides of the mercantilist divide. The authors analyze the works of both authors in depth, showing that their disagreements had chiefly to do with different views on money and monetary policy. Additionally, the authors explore how early nineteenth-century writers such as Jean-Baptiste Say and J. R. McCulloch helped forge the intellectual profiles of both Steuart and Smith.
This chapter examines James Steuart’s explanation of the relationship between banking system and economic development. Unlike other Scottish thinkers of the time, Steuart…
This chapter examines James Steuart’s explanation of the relationship between banking system and economic development. Unlike other Scottish thinkers of the time, Steuart argues that the origin of commercial nations was not, in his view, a consequence of human nature and a long period of historical evolution. The establishment of the system of trade and commerce that gives rise to a “commercial nation” is conditioned by a series of elements that can render its appearance impossible. This chapter examines how the establishment of the system of trade and commerce that gives rise to a commercial nation is conditioned, according to Steuart, by the development of the banking system. It also broaches Steuart’s explanation of how the banking system functions within a non-commercial nation, which the Scottish author called “the infancy of banking.”
It is deservedly recognized that James Steuart advanced a monetary theory in which paper money played an important role. The successful establishment of Scottish banknote…
It is deservedly recognized that James Steuart advanced a monetary theory in which paper money played an important role. The successful establishment of Scottish banknote circulation and theoretical influences from his fellow countrymen such as John Law can be pointed out as backgrounds for his monetary theory. Little attention has been given however to the point that Steuart deduced theory on banks and banknotes quite differently from his predecessors. It is of great significance that Steuart’s theory on banks and banknotes in his first draft of The Principles of Political Oeconomy was, in the following years, drastically expanded and reconstructed. The theory in his first draft written in 1764 was based on the opinion that banknotes should be issued only on landed securities, in consideration of ideas from the Scottish banking system. He then expanded the theory into a dynamic three-stage banking theory where he concluded that as economies and credit grew, banks should issue notes not only on the basis of landed securities but also by discounting bills and giving public credit. By this expansion, banknotes gained a broad and central role in his monetary theory, and the expansion gave his monetary theory more ingenious evolutionary aspects.
The chapter first emphasizes the aspects which Steuart (1767), Thornton (1802), Tooke (1844, 1838–1857), and Keynes (1923) have in common about the relation between the exchange rate and the short-term rate of interest: they all considered a temporary unfavorable foreign balance caused by an asymmetrical exogenous shock, which called for a discretionary policy favoring international short-term capital inflows to overcome the consequences of the deficit. These aspects draw an unorthodox genealogy on this issue between the four authors, contrary to the tradition originating in Hume and developed later by the British monetary orthodoxy. Secondly, the chapter shows that there was an analytical progress from Steuart (1767) to Keynes (1923), which however faced a limit: if it reinforced an unorthodox genealogy, it did not integrate the modern idea according to which international short-term capital movements may themselves be a source of external disequilibrium. The origin of this limit was probably in the question raised, which was the adjustment to an exogenous asymmetrical shock.
The main purpose of this paper is first to discern the overwhelming influence of Kantian thought in the development of mainstream political economic doctrines. In this we…
The main purpose of this paper is first to discern the overwhelming influence of Kantian thought in the development of mainstream political economic doctrines. In this we will show that the Kantian philosophical influence has introduced an abiding element of duality in all matters of the western liberal theory of social contract and political economy. The nature of Kantian moral philosophy will be shown to have left the study of political economy by and large ethically neutral by treating the role of morals, ethics and values exogenously to the economic system. We will then introduce some substantive elements of an alternative approach to the treatment of ethics and values in the socio‐economic system. We will show that in the alternative approach to the study of social contract theory and political economy the ethical considerations appear as endogenous elements and strongly negate the Kantian principle of duality and individualistic rationalism.
A comparative and critical examination of the methodology, goals and history of development of the field of Western social sciences in Islamic perspectives is presented. Economics is treated as a parallel case study in this respect. It is shown that the field of Western social sciences was the outcome of the revolt against the Church in the eighteenth century by the scholastic school to sever science from religion. Ever since, it has gained momentum also under the Cartesian philosophy of empiricism. Thus, the age‐long advance of the social sciences has shown increasing independence within each of its sub‐disciplines. An inward looking hegemony developed among the various sub‐disciplines. Such developments have made it increasingly difficult for the treatment of ethics and values as integrable elements in social investigation. The essence of a human analysis of social problems is thereby, misunderstood in modern social science analysis. The philosophy, nature and methodology of social investigation in Islamic framework are examined. It is argued that the Western concern with dichotomy between science and religion is not applicable to Islam. Consequently, there is a good possibility for studying social problems by an integrated approach among all the sub‐disciplines of the social sciences. This gives rise to an interdisciplinary study of social issues and problems and the development of a generalised social equilibrium system in the Islamic framework. We have developed one such comprehensive model endowed by its intrinsic Islamic ethics and values emanating fundamentally from the dynamic Quranic essence of the Unity of God in the working of the universe, “Al‐Tawhid”. The key principles and instruments are developed. The central role of the “shura” in functionally endowing the integrated study of social issues, is studied. In this context, the study of Islamic economics as one of Islamic political economy is examined. A specific economic problem in this area is explored. It is concluded that the approach of the Islamic social investigation and of Islamic political economy is what the future generation of social and economic thinkers will be working towards.
From 1782 to 1834, the English social legislation shifted from a safety net devised to deal with emergencies to a social security system implemented to cope with the…
From 1782 to 1834, the English social legislation shifted from a safety net devised to deal with emergencies to a social security system implemented to cope with the threat of unemployment and poverty. In the attempt to explain this shift, this chapter concentrates on the changed attitudes toward poverty and power relationships in eighteenth-century British society. Especially, it looks at the role played by eighteenth-century British economic thinkers in elaborating arguments in favor of reducing the most evident asymmetries of power characterizing the period of transition from Mercantilism to the Classical era. To what extent did economic thinkers contribute to creating an environment within which a social legislation aimed at improving the living conditions of the poor as the one established in 1795 could be not only envisaged but also implemented? In doing so, this chapter deals with an aspect often undervalued and/or overlooked by historians of economic thought: namely, the relationship between economic theory and social legislation. If the latter is the institutional framework by which both individual and collective well-being can be achieved the former cannot but assume a fundamental role as a useful abstraction which sheds light on the multifaceted reality in which social policies are proposed, forged, and eventually implemented.
This volume, sponsored by the European Society for the History of Economic Thought, was shaped at the University of Bologna where earlier drafts of the 16 essays it…
This volume, sponsored by the European Society for the History of Economic Thought, was shaped at the University of Bologna where earlier drafts of the 16 essays it contains were presented at a Conference on institutions, markets and the division of labor. Like any collection of essays, especially if they come after a conference, the quality of the contributions varies, but it must be said that the average exceeds the usual standard. Moreover, although the title “Knowledge, Social Institutions and the Division of Labour” is broad enough to accommodate a diversity of subjects, there is a degree of congruity among the different contributions. The book is divided in three parts, “Rationality, Communication and Connecting Principles” (comprising four essays), “Social Interaction and Moral Sentiments” (comprising five essays) and “Division of Labour, Patterns of Interdependence and Social Institutions” (comprising seven essays).