Schools of Thought in Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 7: Italian Enlightenment
The Italian Enlightenment is one of the great intellectual achievements of Europe’s siècle des Lumières. Both its Southern (Naples) and its Northern (Milan) branches cooperate to produce perhaps the greatest contribution of Italian culture to the development of a modern European tradition of civil rights and enlightened governance. After the Second World War, there was an intense flourishing of studies, particularly in Italy (with a worldwide readership, though), on the Italian Enlightenment. Much of the post-war Italian production on the Enlightenment has been a response to the emerging need for deeper research on the roots of western culture and on the civic values of our societies so much shattered by the traumatic experiences of a new kind of war ravaging our cities in Europe and in other parts of the world. A single name, among many others, will be enough to give the idea: Franco Venturi’s studies on the eighteenth-century’s reforms. Much less has been done by economists and historians of economics but economic analysis is the core issue of the Italian Enlightenment, as illustrated by Schumpeter (see below). The economic discipline – originally called civil economy in eighteenth-century Naples and Cameral science (or public economy) in Milan – was indeed prominent in the historical experience of the Italian Enlightenment, although the salience of the discipline still is, to the present day, only imperfectly reflected in much of the recent historiography. A new line of research on the Italian Enlightenment, rooted in a retrieval of the economic discipline of the time, is currently developing (for an overview, see Porta and Scazzieri 2014). It is not surprising that Italy is the country where the first university Chairs in the world were created for the discipline during the second half of the eighteenth century.
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