7: Creating Wealth: Homo Manufacturabilis and the Wealth of Nations

This chapter moves on to another field of empowering capitalism in the preindustrial age, looking at origins of creativity in manufacturing. It does so through a focus on economic writings and ideas. During the Renaissance, manufacturing became conceptualized as the main source of the wealth of nations. Somewhat unoriginally – given that many other authors had used the example as a case in point before – Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) commences with the example of a (pin) manufactory. But rather than discussing the full implications in terms of value-added and creativity, Smith chose to proceed by demonstrating that the true origin of wealth lay in the division of labour, improving the distributional efficiency of the existing market systems. But even for a preindustrial economy – Smith’s template of analysis – this wasn’t completely the case; political economy had much more in stock. Smith thus missed a great opportunity – where did the wealth of nations originate?

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