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Virtue, Production and the Politics of Commerce: Genovesi’s ‘Civil Economy’ Revisited

Pabst, Adrian, Scazzieri, Roberto (2019) Virtue, Production and the Politics of Commerce: Genovesi’s ‘Civil Economy’ Revisited. History of Political Economy, 51 (4). pp. 703-730. ISSN 0018-2702. E-ISSN 1527-1919. (doi:10.1215/00182702-7685197) (KAR id:66021)


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 like Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The aim of this paper 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 defined by him as ‘the political science of the economy and commerce’. First, the paper 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 complementarity conditions productive activities should meet for a well-functioning polity to persist over time. Third, our argument emphasises 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.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1215/00182702-7685197
Uncontrolled keywords: Genovesi; civil economy; production; commerce, trading funds, virtue
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2018 22:05 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 19:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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