Schools of Thought in Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 4: Cameralism
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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