Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II

Schools of Thought in Economics

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume II contains entries on the major schools of economic thought and analysis. These schools differ with regard to their 'vision' of the working of the economic system, the major forces and interactions that shape its path, and the policy recommendations proposed. At any moment of time, several such schools typically compete with one another, striving for dominance within the economic and political discourse. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 4: Cameralism

Keith Tribe


During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a new discourse of wealth and welfare developed in the German territorial states: the power and wealth of a ruler and his Court was directly related to that of his people. This new discourse originated as a language of counsel, presented in pamphlets and books to the Court and its officials – those whose workplace was the Kammer. In the early eighteenth century it was transformed into a university science, introduced chiefly in northern, Protestant universities as a means to improve the training of administrators. Only in isolated cases did this new science – Kameralwissenschaft – displace law as the basis for administrative training, and in any case the subject was taught in faculties of philosophy as part of the general education that these offered – contrasting with the vocational education offered by the other three superior faculties of law, medicine and theology. Nonetheless, the idea that a flourishing state was based on principles of good order, and that these principles should be taught to young men in a systematic way, persisted through the eighteenth century, until the vogue for critical philosophy and the rise of a new natural law undercut the ideas of state and society upon which the discourse of cameralism had been based. Early in the nineteenth century the literature transmuted into a new doctrine of economic order which, while still conceiving the wealth of a nation as founded upon the activity of a labouring population, now took its point of departure from the needs of the individual. This was referred to variously as a Volkswirtschaftslehre, a Nationalökonomie, or indeed a Politische …konomie. The new discourse was gradually adopted by incumbent professors, and as elsewhere in continental Europe it found its place as a compulsory part of the training in law, and so was almost everywhere taught in faculties of law.

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