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In search of a 'crude fancy of childhood': deconstructing mercantilism

Abstract : This paper argues against the unity of 'mercantilism', refuting a rational reconstruction that underestimates both the diversity of early modern European economists and their writings, and the depth of their analyses. Beginning with a brief examination of the origins of 'mercantilism' and the evolution of perceptions of it, we examine the various readings proposed of 'mercantilist' writings (classical 'reconstruction', the German historical school and then contemporary work). The 'deconstruction' undertaken here does not aim to demonstrate that pre-classical writings were devoid of any conceptualisation or internal coherence. However, contemporary readers must make some effort to grasp the concepts used and engage with the proposals made. To this end it might be useful to propose an initial classification of authors based on their social position. The paper identifies different categories of writers and proposes new combinations of authors, reflecting the range of economic, and especially monetary, thinking of the period, with reference to the position of those authors relative to the spheres of government in Europe. This categorisation takes account of the social position of the authors, so as to identify any implications it might have for their concerns and their proposals. We first identify three categories of writers who are generally outside those spheres (late scholastics, economic philosophers and pamphleteers); then two categories of 'insiders' (officers of the mint and treasury administrators). The closeness of authors to the regime significantly influenced their writings.
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Jérôme Blanc, Ludovic Desmedt. In search of a 'crude fancy of childhood': deconstructing mercantilism. Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2014, 38 (3), pp.585-604. ⟨10.1093/cje/bes081⟩. ⟨halshs-00993954⟩

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