Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

Nature and labour. Theoretical approaches and metaphors of wealth in economic discourse before the classics

Fiori Stefano, University of Torino

Within the approach which considered nature as an essential part of economic discourse, in the seventeenth century and during the early decades of the eighteenth, there occurred a conceptual reversal regarding the relationship between land and labour as agents of production of wealth. Mercantilists attributed to labour the capacity to produce wealth, and they considered land as matter, while Physiocrats attributed reproductive capacity to land, and viewed labour as either a mere support for reproductive processes or a useful, but sterile, capacity to transform natural products. These perspectives emerged not only from theoretical analyses but also from less structured conceptions in which metaphors played a role because of their capacity to provide preliminary conceptual frameworks. Particularly important in this process was the reformulation of the notions of ‘matter’ and ‘form’.

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Keywords: Aristotle, Preclassical economic thought, matter, form.

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