Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Cameralism and the Enlightenment: Happiness, Governance and Reform

Nokkala Ere, University of Helsinki
Miller Nicholas, University of Lisbon, Institute of Social Sciences

Ere Nokkala and Nicholas B. Miller are the co-organizers of the session "Reconsidering Economic Thought during the Enlightenment: Cameralism and Political Economy". Their co-presented paper in the session emphasises the blending of Enlightenment patterns of thought in cameralist political and economic discourse and practice over the course of the eighteenth century. Our starting point is a reconceputalisation of the terms in question, borne from a position of scepticism towards the unity of the labels of “cameralists” and “cameralism”. Cameralism here is not defined as a stable category of analysis; rather, we use it as a signifier for a field of thinkers situated within the dynamic intellectual milieu of the European Enlightenment. Instead of a tightly bounded domain of unchanging ideas, we approach cameralism as a porous field open to the influence of alternate and competing intellectual strains, impulses and traditions. In so doing, we suggest that the political economy of the cameralists was much more diverse than earlier assumed and it was open to questions such as colonialism and free trade. We explore how eighteenth-century cameralist thinkers engaged with broader Enlightenment inquiries relating to the new process of global commercialization and evidence how cameralists and German thinkers more broadly were intellectually enmeshed in the expansion of global horizons well documented for European Atlantic contexts.

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Keywords: Cameralism, Enlightenment, political economy

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