HOPE 51.4 (August 2019)

Yann Giraud, "Five Decades of HOPE"

Newcomers to the history of economics are often exposed to several texts that try to define the subject, make a case for its usefulness, and present the various methods one can use to establish historical claims. Such pieces introduce a number of methodological divides, for instance the standard dichotomy between rational and historical reconstructions. Most of the time, authors of such pieces disclose their historiographic preferences and provide a rationale for them, pointing to the pitfalls of the methods they feel should be rejected. They may also address the issue of current economists’ lack of attention to their past, and accordingly offer their views on how historians of economics could strive to regain that lost attention or advocate the alternative strategy of addressing other audiences. These contributions, however, leave one question unaddressed: that of how history of economics has changed over time. My aim in this paper is to use the fiftieth anniversary of the History of Political Economy (HOPE) as an opportunity to reflect on that question. I survey articles published in HOPE in order to reconstruct historiographic changes. This paper has one central theme, which is that HOPE has always been more pluralistic than current members of the profession, who often see the journal as a stronghold for the historical reconstruction method, seem to acknowledge: while some individuals or groups of individuals have suggested bolder inflections for the field over the years, their attempts, while sparking debates and, at times, controversies, have had limited effect on a vast portion of the journal’s content, hinting at the inability to engage the larger community of historians of economics in adopting these new approaches.

Ann Mari May and Robert W. Dimand, "Women in the Early Years of the American Economic Association: A Membership beyond the Professoriate Per Se"

We use the archives of the American Economic Association to examine the participation of women in the association from its foundation in 1885 to the Great Depression. Women participated actively in the formation of the association, contributed several monographs to its early publications, and won some of its early essay competitions. We find that the membership drives of 1900–1902 (aimed at academics and businessmen) and of 1909–13 (aimed at lawyers, bankers, and businessmen) neglected women interested in social causes and home economics as potential members. Together with the abolition of local branches, these first two membership drives diluted the role of women in the association. In contrast, the membership drive of 1922–26 reflected a growing interest in graduate students and young instructors that somewhat increased the proportion of women among members.

Adrian Pabst and Roberto Scazzieri, "Virtue, Production, and the Politics of Commerce: Genovesi’s “Civil Economy” Revisited

Antonio Genovesi’s economic-political treatise on civil economy was a major contribution to debates in the mid-and late eighteenth century on the nature of political economy. At that time, Genovesi’s book was extensively translated and discussed across continental Europe and Latin America, where it was read as a foundational text of political economy similar to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The aim of this article is to contribute to the analysis of the mutual implication between the economic and the political order of society by revisiting Genovesi’s theory of civil economy, which he defined as “the political science of the economy and commerce.” First, the article retraces Genovesi’s conception of civil economy as a branch of political science and the role of “virtue” in ordering the polity according to “the nature of the world.” Second, it explores Genovesi’s theory of production as an inquiry into the proportionality conditions that productive activities should meet for a well-functioning polity to persist over time. Third, our argument emphasizes the importance of Genovesi’s analysis of production structures for his theory of internal and foreign trade. In this connection, the paper investigates Genovesi’s idea that the maintenance of a country’s “trading fund” should be the fundamental objective for its internal and external trade policies. These policies, according to Genovesi, should be consistent with the context of the body politic under consideration and the economy’s proportionality requirements for any specific stage of development.

John Pullen, "Malthus on the Desire of Bettering Our Condition and the Vis Medicatrix Reipublicae"

A well-known and fundamental element in the population theory of Thomas Robert Malthus is the concept of prudential or moral restraint. A less well-known but just as fundamental element is the “desire of bettering our condition,” also described by Malthus as the “vis medicatrix reipublicae,” which has been freely translated as the healing power of society. This article aims to explain the meaning and significance given by Malthus in his theory of population to these two concepts. Their essential role in preventing or remedying overpopulation does not seem to have received adequate recognition in the secondary literature on Malthus.

Roy H. Grieve, "On Terry Peach’s Unconvincing 'Reconsideration' of Adam Smith’s Theory of Value

In a recent paper Terry Peach argues that Adam Smith found no reason to limit application of the labor-embodied theory of value to the early and rude state of society. According to Peach, Smith—having found a problem in employing the labor-commanded measure of value in the case of the contemporary commercial economy—somewhat surreptitiously abandoned labor-commanded and adopted instead labor-embodied as a generally valid theory of exchange value. Peach shows a propensity to find what he considers “labor-commanded” usages in Smith’s work. However, I find Peach’s rather startling “Reconsideration” to be fatally flawed—for the reason that it derives from Peach’s evident misunderstanding of what is implied by the labor-commanded measure of value.

Reviews of Finance in America: An Unfinished Story, by Kevin R. Brine and Mary Poovey; Value, Competition, and Exploitation: Marx’s Legacy Revisited, by Jonathan F. Cogliano, Peter Flaschel, Reiner Franke, Nils Frölich, and Roberto Veneziani; The Power of a Single Number: A Political History of GDP, by Philipp Lepenies; A History of Australasian Economic Thought, by Alex Millmow; The Origin of Asset Management from 1700 to 1960: Towering Investors, by Nigel Edward Morecroft; The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship that Shaped Modern Thought, by Dennis C. Rasmussen; Lionel Robbins on the Principles of Economic Analysis: The 1930s Lectures, ed. by Susan Howson; and The Political Economy of Public Debt: Three Centuries of Theory and Evidence, by Richard M. Salsman.