Quesnay and Physiocracy


242 Pages
Read an excerpt
Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more


Au sommaire de cet ouvrage : François Quesnay : Wealth, Science, Societies / Nobility and Royaume agricole : The Tableau économique as a Political Utopia / Graslin and Forbonnais against the Tableau économique / François Quesnay : Editions and Interpretations / The "Journal de l'Agriculture, du Commerce et des Finances" / The "Ephémérides du Citoyen" / The Library of Français Quesnay.



Published by
Published 01 May 2012
Reads 8
EAN13 9782296491847
Language English
Document size 4 MB

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0005€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

Report a problem
Quesnay and Physiocracy Studies and Materials
Cahiers d’économie politiqueCollection dirigée parArnaud Orain
Depuis plus de vingt-cinq ans, les Cahiers d’Économie Poli-tique relient l’étude des économistes du passé aux débats ac-tuels en théorie économique. Afin de mieux poursuivre cet ob-jet, une collection d’ouvrages est créée. Y prendront placeprin-cipalement des textes d’auteurs anciens devenusintrouvables ou demeurés inédits, mais aussi des essais originaux.
Titres parus
S. Meyssonnier (éd.),Traités sur le commerce de Josiah Child, suivi des Remarques de Jacques Vincent de Gournay, 2008. J.A. Schumpeter,Théorie de la monnaie et de la banque I. L’essence de la monnaie, 2005.J.A. Schumpeter,Théorie de la monnaie et e la banque II. Théorie appliquée, 2005.Gilbert Abraham-Frois et Émeric Lendjel (présentées par),Les oeuvres économiques de l’abbé Potron, 2004.Marquis de Mirabeau, François Quesnay,Traité de la monar-chie, 1999.
Quesnay and Physiocracy Studies and Materials
Edited by Jean CartelierandGino Longhitano
with Giordano Otello Marilli Arnaud Orain Concetta Spoto Salvatore Tiné
© L'HARMATTAN, 2012 5-7, rue de l'École-Polytechnique ; 75005 Paris http://www.librairieharmattan.com diffusion.harmattan@wanadoo.fr harmattan1@wanadoo.fr ISBN : 978-2-296-96603-1 EAN : 9782296966031
Who cares nowadays about Quesnay and Physiocracy, except for a few specialists, all of whom can be found in academic circles ? Hardly any-one, to be sure. But why should we be interested by such old-fashioned, outlandish theses as ‘exclusive productivity of land’ or ‘legal despot-ism’? Why try to draw attention to these almost totally forgotten ideas by publishing a book dealing with them? For the sake of scholarly knowledge, is certainly part of the answer. Quesnay’sTableau économique has fascinated historians of economic thought for a long time, as one of the first quantitative models of society as a whole. But this must not lead us to neglect the important critiques to which theTableauwas subjected at the time of its release. Arnaud Orain deals with Quesnay’s two main opponents, Forbonnais and Graslin. He proposes a new analysis of the debates. Economists and historians inter-ested in Physiocracy will also be glad to find here some interesting doc-uments such as the tables of theJournal de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et des Financesand of theEphémérides du Citoyen; thanks, respectively, to O. Marilli and C. Spoto. The same will be grateful to S. Tiné for his perti-nent and well-informed comments on the way Quesnay has been pub-th th lished and interpreted during the 19 and 20 centuries, and to G. Long-hitano for making public the content of Quesnay’s library. But there are more than purely academic reasons to cite regarding the reasons for a fresh look at theDivin Docteur’s writings. Somewhat para-doxically, the main one is the topical aspect of Quesnay’s finest achievement. Through theTableau économique,substitution of eco- the nomics (la science nouvelle,according to Dupont de Nemours) for politics was advocated for the first time (and realized at a theoretical level). Instead of dealing with the very complicated nexus of moral and po-litical values (the privileges of the Nobility and Clergy, Parliament’s pre-rogatives, and so on) Quesnay proposes a pure quantitative framework whose unique guideline is the amount ofproduit netits reproduc- and tion. The Sovereign has nothing to do but comply with the natural laws the new science has unveiled. Such an attitude echoes a discourse in cur-rent circulation: the rate of growth is proclaimed to be the main concern of politicians, and everything else – welfare policy, international affairs, etc. – must be subject to that main objective. Economics, and its deter-minism, tends to replace politics, at least as a means of persuasion.
An inquiry into the internal logic of theTableaureveals that science is a disguise for politics, and that the main propositions claimed by Ques-nay have no firm basis, but are largely arbitrary and over-determined by a political project of re-foundation of the French monarchy. A careful study of the historical context in which Quesnay put forward his theo-ries shows that, more than in theTableau économique,their ultimate truth is to be found in theTraité de la monarchie,which remained unpublished until 1999. J. Cartelier, on a theoretical level, and G. Longhitano, on a his-torical level, make it clear that the “invention of political economy” is in fact the invention of modern politics.  The editors
 Support for the editing of this volume came from theCahiers d’Économie Politiqueand the University of Catania.
9 François Quesnay : Wealth, Science, Societies (Gino Longhitano)
61 Nobility andRoyaume agricole: TheTableau économiqueas a Political Utopia (Jean Cartelier)
87 Graslin and Forbonnais against theTableau économique(1767) (Arnaud Orain)
113 François Quesnay: Editions and Interpretations (Salvatore Tiné)
137 The « Journal de l’Agriculture, du Commerce & des Finances » (Giordano Otello Marilli)
155 The « Éphémérides du Citoyen » (Concetta Spoto)
193 The Library of François Quesnay (Gino Longhitano)
François Quesnay: Wealth, Science, Societies
1 Gino Longhitano
1. – With hisTableau économique, Quesnay demonstrated how effectively aroyaume agricoleworks, whose fortune is guided in accordance with the rules outlined in the “natural order”, and is inspired by the “science” of political economy. This science is not limited to a “science of wealth”, it aspires to be a “science of society”. The basis of this project is a complex overview of the French society, economy and politics of the time; it also includes a clear stance on the political debate taking place in France dur-th ing the middle of the 18 Century. The idea of a balancedsociety of ranksis refuted so as is refuted the idea of an absolutism of Colbertist-industrialist inspiration. A model of social hierarchies was proposed, which pin-pointed the kernel of new society in the “landowner citizen” and is founded on “production”. It is a design that devastates the social hierarchies of theancien régime; however, it does understand that this “production” coincides exclusively with man’s work that is supported by the “direct” collaboration of nature. It is in this work that an inde-pendent society, in the direct integration of man and the environment, is founded. The other human activities – manufacturing, commerce – that do not enjoy a direct and immediate relationship with territorial produc-tion, are nothing else butcosts, subsequent to and outside of the produc-tion process. TheTableau économique depicts this society – aroyaume agricole– as a “nation” composed not ofranks, but of threeclassesof citi-zens, defined by their position in the economy:landowners,productiveclassandsterileclass. The wealth that moves between the classes is “ren-dered” homogeneous by its value in monetary terms. Yet, in reality, due to the productive-sterile polarity, it is considered essentially heterogene-ous. The justification of a “new” social hierarchy, with new asymmetries, that no longer demands legitimisation from tradition or from the will of men, but directly from “nature”, lies in the statement on this original po-larity. The formation of this model went through three phases: Quesnay’s reflections on the French crisis between 1755 and 1757; a dispute with Mirabeau’s aristocratic model between 1757 and 1758; as well as a dis-
1 University of Catania. Email:gi.longhitano@gmail.com
Gino Longhitano
pute with Rousseau between 1762 and 1767. The first defines Quesnay’santi-mercantilism; the second reveals his clear refusal of thesociety of ranksmodel; the third sees the emergence of an alternative to thedemocratic model. 2. – What is already explicit in Quesnay’s first articles of economic ar-gument written for theEncyclopédieare the features of a clearly anti-Colbertist approach to the analysis of French society;FermiersandGrainspresent the topics, andImpôts andHommes complete the discussion. France was in an economic, demographic, fiscal and financial crisis, as well as suffering political and military difficulty. This crisis was forecast-ed well before the Seven Years’ war and manifested itself openly in 1763, with the end of the conflict, by the humiliating defeat of what up until a few years earlier had been the largest European power. Even the French military difficulties stemmed from the economic crisis; Quesnay goes on to say as much against the way in which the historians dealt with the 2 issue . France had lost its sources of wealth and with them went its power. For three quarters of a century, France continued to impoverish 3 itself and the State, which saw its population and revenue decrease. A country that could have dominated all of its opponents, on account of its size, the quality of its land and its inhabitants’ work, was beaten by a “petit pays” like England! Something was going wrong in France’sgou-vernement économique; something stopped it rediscovering the resources that had sustained its power.
2  F. Quesnay inTraité de la Monarchie, p. 175, n. 392: « Les historiens ne s’attachent qu’aux expéditions militaires, qu’au merveilleux, pour amuser et intéresser leurs lecteurs, comme les temps de guerre amusent les nouvellistes. Ces auteurs ignorent le plan, la conduite, les avantages et les désavantages des gouvernements, les états de prospérité ou de dépérissement des royaumes, les changements dans les mœurs des nations et les autres objets les plus fondamentaux de l’histoire d’où dépendent les événements, les révolutions, et tous les faits, le bonheur, le malheur des peuples Toutes histoires des états se ressemblent, ce ne sont que des narrations de sièges, de batailles, de conquêtes, de cruautés, des portraits des souverains et jamais d’histoires des nations, de l’état de leur puissance, de leurs lois, de leurs richesses, de la condition des diverses classes d’habitants, de leurs mœurs, de leurs dépenses, de leur discipline militaire, de leur police, de leurs usages, de leur industrie, de leur commerce, de leur culture, de leur population, de leur administration, des causes de leurs prospérités, de leurs décadences ». 3  An anticolbertist position based on informations found by Quesnay in Dupré de Saint-Maur, until research by Expilly and Messance demonstrated that this decrease in population did not happen. For details, see G. Longhitano (1993), p. 27, n. 35.