The ‘economic’ thought of the Renaissance

Authored by: Germano Maifreda

The Routledge History of the Renaissance

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138898851
eBook ISBN: 9781315226217
Adobe ISBN: 9781351849463


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Recent decades have witnessed a substantial number of studies investigating the historical processes by which fields of knowledge such as economics came to claim status as a separate discipline, and how single sciences began to define and organize their own field of specialization, vocabulary and methods of study. Although the idea of continual and patient progress of scientific knowledge has been overturned by historians of science following Thomas Kuhn’s famed Structure of Scientific Revolutions, most economists still think that this was not the case in terms of their field. 1 As a consequence, according to the traditional approach to the history of economic thought, modern economic science originates from a theoretical revolution that occurred roughly in the second half of the eighteenth century; an epoch of ‘first great theoretical revolution’, as for example Ernesto Screpanti and Stefano Zamagni put it, ‘of great breaks with tradition … and reached its climax with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations’. 2 Consequently, the theoretical and methodological innovations that were introduced in the period of transition to classical political economy by figures such as Petty, Hume, Galiani, Beccaria, Verri, Steuart, Anderson, Condillac, Mirabeau, Quesnay, Turgot and the whole physiocratic movement, have been well researched and described in general reference texts.

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