Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

From Justi to Beckmann: cameralism and economic knowledge at the University of Göttingen in the second half of the 18th century

Cunha Alexandre, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

The University of Göttingen had a central position in the German Enlightenment during the 18th century, including an important contribution associated to cameralism and ideas on economic governing. During the second half of the century, a number of important names associated with the development of fields such as statistics (Statistik) and state sciences (Staatswissenschaften) were professors at the university. With regard to the economic ideas developed there as part of the field of cameral sciences (Cameral-Wissenschaften) and police science (Policeywissenschaft), the works of Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi and Johann Beckmann are the most important ones. A further set of university professors can nevertheless be highlighted, including for example of Johann Stephan Pütter, Johann Jacob Schmauss, Anton Friedrich Büsching or Gottfried Achenwall. The present paper discusses the specificity of the economic ideas produced in this context, trying to capture how certain synergies may have played out between distinct subsets of fields of knowledge, including for example the philosophy of natural law, geography, statistics, mining sciences, technology, or the cameral sciences broadly speaking. Justi is the starting point of the analysis. Even though he lived only a few years in the city (and fled from there at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War), Göttingen would take on a central role in the development of his ideas. These ideas, in turn, would eventually influence other authors who later settled in the city, such as Beckmann. To capture these issues, particular attention is paid to the little known "Abhandlung von den Mitteln die Erkenntniß in den Oeconomischen und Cameral-Wissenschaften (... )" (1755) by Justi, in which he deals with the means of making knowledge in the economic and cameral sciences more useful, as well as to the writing process of his well-known "Grundsätze der Policey-Wissenschaft" (1756), prepared for his police science classes at the university and which was to become one of his most widely circulated books (with translations into French and Spanish). A comparative analysis is also made with the third commented edition of the "Grundsätze" (1782), prepared, and expanded with commentaries, by Justi’s successor in Göttingen, Beckmann, the inventor of the term technology, with a view to highlighting continuities and differences between the perspectives of these two authors.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Cameralism, Economic governing, 18th century, Enlightenment, University of Göttingen, statistics (Statistik), state sciences (Staatswissenschaften), police science (Policeywissenschaft), Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi, Johann Beckmann.

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