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.
Virtue, Production, and the Politics of Commerce: Genovesi’s “Civil Economy” Revisited
Adrian Pabst, Roberto Scazzieri; Virtue, Production, and the Politics of Commerce: Genovesi’s “Civil Economy” Revisited. History of Political Economy 1 August 2019; 51 (4): 703–729. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-7685197
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