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Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe

‘Commerce and manufactures gradually introduced order and good government,’ wrote Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, ‘and with them, the liberty and security of individuals.’ However, Philipp Rössner shows how, when looked at in the face of history, it has usually been the other way around.

This book follows the development of capitalism from the Middle Ages through the industrial revolution to modern day, casting new light on the areas where pre-modern political economies of growth and development made a difference. It shows how order and governance provided the foundation for prosperity, growth and the wealth of nations.

Written for scholars and students of economic history, this is a pioneering new study that debunks the neoliberal origin myth of how capitalism came into the world.

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This epilogue offers some afterthoughts, implications and reflections upon the wider remit of the book and its case within the Grand Scheme of Things. It situates industrial policy and a European culture of manufacturing growth within bigger millennial – and occasionally biblical – origin stories of Homo faber and the making of economic growth as a fall from grace, when Cain slew his brother only to become the forefather of industry. Stories of economic statecraft and state capacity are situated within a fresh look at the transnational histories of early modern political economy. What we commonly take as the vanguard or mainstream elements of modern political economy (often emanating from the French physiocrats and Scottish Enlightenment) represent rather an exceptional offshoot from a larger common ground of political economy, known by its misnomers such as ‘mercantilism’ or, less frequently, ‘cameralism’. These are unhappy labels in any case, but probably too useful to be easily got rid of.

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Karl Pribram interpreted the history of economic doctrines based on the prevailing philosophies or epistemes of their time; 44 while Blaug, another famous economist interested in the history of his discipline looked for theoretical improvement over time. 45 To the present day the search for progress in the history of ideas continues, 46 even though some may label this a Whig way of interpreting history. 47 Recent studies in the deeper history of political economy have acknowledged the longue durée dimensions of capitalist regulation, 48 the role of concepts

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