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Kameralismus, Kapitalismus und die Ursprünge des modernen Wirtschaftswachstums – aus Sicht der Geldtheorie

Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte
Band 102 / 2015 / Heft 4
S. 437–471
Schlagworte: History of Economic Thought, Cameralism, Mercantilism, Scholastic Economics, Economic History of Europe (pre-1913), Monetary Theory and Policy, History of Regulation, Manufacturing, Economic Development, Institutions, History of Capitalism JEL-Codes: B00, B11-13, N00, N43, N64, O10, O43, P10, P48


The paper calls for a reconceptualization of pre-classical political economy and economic thought and its role in long-term growth and Europe’s transition towards industrialization, c. 1350-1900. The focus will be on German Cameralism and its imputed characteristic as a Sonderweg doctrine. The Sonderweg hypothesis will be refuted. Cameralism was neither specifically German (it was a pan-European doctrine), nor in any way an aberration in the evolution of modern economic thought. And it contained key elements that would make, if applied wisely, for an effective economic transition from agrarian low-growth economies to more productive industrial economies based on manufacturing. It thus was the origin and pre-runner of modern economic doctrine(s). One key element however, that has been understudied in recent years, and which is the focus of the present article, is the strong notion in Cameralist economics on order in the market place and how a secure framework of property rights could be achieved that was apt to effect such transitions noted above. This can be shown using a focus on the monetary theory of the Cameralists. Far from following a traditionalist ‘Scholastic’ or worse, dirigiste, stance, the German economic thinkers developed a quite idiosyncratic set of ideas how money should be managed so as to achieve stability in domestic economy and society, as well as the potential for long-term growth. There were three areas or topics in particular around which these theories of order evolved, sometimes conflicting: first by the command for a stable currency (measured in terms of the precious metal content of the coins), second the call for currency debasement in those cases where this would help the domestic economy become more competitive, and thirdly, by increasing money’s speed of circulation as a means to achieve economic expansion. These ideas have a long history that sometimes goes back to the Middle Ages. But their longevity is proven in some continuities to be found in twentieth- century economic thought so that it may be said with some justification that Cameralist economics - or ‘economic reason of state’ theory - laid the basis for Europe’s long way towards the industrial revolution.

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