Monday, September 12, 2011

Karl Marx, CAPITAL, Volume 1, Chapter 2, "EXCHANGE", Biographical Notes (5) of authors referred to -

JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704):

John Locke

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John Locke

Full name John Locke

Born 29 August 1632
Wrington, Somerset, England

Died 28 October 1704 (aged 72)
Essex, England

Era 17th-century philosophy
(Modern Philosophy)

Region Western Philosophers

School British Empiricism, Social Contract,Natural Law

Main interests Metaphysics, Epistemology,Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Education,Economics

Notable ideas Tabula rasa, "government with the consent of the governed"; state of nature; rights of life, liberty andproperty

Influenced by[show]

Influence on[show]


Part of a series on

John Locke

Social contract
Limited government
Tabula rasa
State of nature
Right to property
Labor theory of property
Lockean proviso

(listed chronologically)

Fundamental Constitutions
of Carolina

A Letter Concerning Toleration
Two Treatises of Government

An Essay Concerning
Human Understanding

Some Thoughts
Concerning Education

Of the Conduct of
the Understanding


Robert Filmer
Thomas Hobbes
1st Earl of Shaftesbury
David Hume
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Adam Smith
Immanuel Kant
Thomas Jefferson

Related topics

Classical liberalism
Polish Brethren

John Locke (play /ˈlɒk/; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.[5]

Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.[6]


Locke's father, who was also named John Locke, was a country lawyer and clerk to the Justices of the Peace in Chew Magna,[7] who had served as a captain of cavalry for the Parliamentarian forces during the early part of the English Civil War. His mother, Agnes Keene, was a tanner's daughter and reputed to be very beautiful. Both parents were Puritans. Locke was born on 29 August 1632, in a small thatched cottage by the church in Wrington, Somerset, about twelve miles from Bristol. He was baptised the same day. Soon after Locke's birth, the family moved to the market town of Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol, where Locke grew up in a rural Tudor house in Belluton.

In 1647, Locke was sent to the prestigious Westminster School in London under the sponsorship of Alexander Popham, a member of Parliament and his father's former commander. After completing his studies there, he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford. The dean of the college at the time was John Owen, vice-chancellor of the university. Although a capable student, Locke was irritated by the undergraduate curriculum of the time. He found the works of modern philosophers, such as René Descartes, more interesting than the classical material taught at the university. Through his friend Richard Lower, whom he knew from the Westminster School, Locke was introduced to medicine and the experimental philosophy being pursued at other universities and in the English Royal Society, of which he eventually became a member.

Locke was awarded a bachelor's degree in 1656 and a master's degree in 1658. He obtained a bachelor of medicine in 1674, having studied medicine extensively during his time at Oxford and worked with such noted scientists and thinkers as Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke and Richard Lower. In 1666, he met Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who had come to Oxford seeking treatment for a liver infection. Cooper was impressed with Locke and persuaded him to become part of his retinue.

Locke had been looking for a career and in 1667 moved into Shaftesbury's home at Exeter House in London, to serve as Lord Ashley's personal physician. In London, Locke resumed his medical studies under the tutelage of Thomas Sydenham. Sydenham had a major effect on Locke's natural philosophical thinking – an effect that would become evident in the An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Locke's medical knowledge was put to the test when Shaftesbury's liver infection became life-threatening. Locke coordinated the advice of several physicians and was probably instrumental in persuading Shaftesbury to undergo an operation (then life-threatening itself) to remove the cyst. Shaftesbury survived and prospered, crediting Locke with saving his life.

It was in Shaftesbury's household, during 1671, that the meeting took place, described in the Epistle to the reader of the Essay, which was the genesis of what would later become the Essay. Two extant Drafts still survive from this period. It was also during this time that Locke served as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and Secretary to the Lords and Proprietors of the Carolinas, helping to shape his ideas on international trade and economics.

Shaftesbury, as a founder of the Whig movement, exerted great influence on Locke's political ideas. Locke became involved in politics when Shaftesbury became Lord Chancellor in 1672. Following Shaftesbury's fall from favour in 1675, Locke spent some time travelling across France as tutor and medical attendant to Caleb Banks.[8] He returned to England in 1679 when Shaftesbury's political fortunes took a brief positive turn. Around this time, most likely at Shaftesbury's prompting, Locke composed the bulk of the Two Treatises of Government. While it was once thought that Locke wrote the Treatises to defend the Glorious Revolution of 1688, recent scholarship has shown that the work was composed well before this date,[9]however, and it is now viewed as a more general argument against Absolute monarchy (particularly as espoused by Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes) and for individual consent as the basis of political legitimacy. Though Locke was associated with the influential Whigs, his ideas about natural rights and government are today considered quite revolutionary for that period in English history.

However, Locke fled to the Netherlands in 1683, under strong suspicion of involvement in the Rye House Plot, although there is little evidence to suggest that he was directly involved in the scheme. In the Netherlands, Locke had time to return to his writing, spending a great deal of time re-working the Essay and composing the Letter on Toleration. Locke did not return home until after the Glorious Revolution. Locke accompanied William of Orange's wife back to England in 1688. The bulk of Locke's publishing took place upon his return from exile – his aforementioned Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration all appearing in quick succession.

Locke's close friend Lady Masham invited him to join her at the Mashams' country house in Essex. Although his time there was marked by variable health from asthma attacks, he nevertheless became an intellectual hero of the Whigs. During this period he discussed matters with such figures as John Dryden and Isaac Newton.

He died in 28 October 1704, and is buried in the churchyard of the village of High Laver,[10] east of Harlow in Essex, where he had lived in the household of Sir Francis Masham since 1691. Locke never married nor had children.

Events that happened during Locke's lifetime include the English Restoration, the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London. He did not quite see the Act of Union of 1707, though the thrones of England and Scotland were held in personal union throughout his lifetime. Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy were in their infancy during Locke's time.


Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him "le sage Locke". His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a "long train of abuses." Such was Locke's influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Bacon, Locke and Newton ... I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences".[11][12][13] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence.

But Locke's influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.[14]

Theories of religious tolerance

Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single "true religion" would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.[15]

Constitution of Carolina

Appraisals of Locke have often been tied to appraisals of liberalism in general, and also to appraisals of the United States. Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company, as well as through his participation in drafting the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas while Shaftesbury's secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. For example, Martin Cohen notes that as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–4) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700) Locke was, in fact, "one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude".[16] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having been intended to justify the displacement of the Native Americans.[17][18] Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy and racism, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists.[19]

Theory of value and property

Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour.

In Chapter V of his Second Treatise, Locke argues that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods or utilise property to produce goods beneficial to human society.[20]

Locke stated his belief, in his Second Treatise, that nature on its own provides little of value to society; he provides the implication that the labour expended in the creation of goods gives them their value. This is used as supporting evidence for the interpretation of Locke's labour theory of property as a labour theory of value, in his implication that goods produced by nature are of little value, unless combined with labour in their production and that labour is what gives goods their value.[20]

Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his own social theory.

Political theory

See also: Two Treatises of Government

Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterised by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions", basis for the phrase in the American Declaration of Independence; "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".[21]

Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name[22] and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day.[23] Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Limits to accumulation

Labour creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man’s capacity to produce and man’s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offence against nature.[24] However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage.[25] He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,”[26] since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth.[27]

On price theory

Locke’s general theory of value and price is a supply and demand theory, which was set out in a letter to a Member of Parliament in 1691, titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money.[28] Supply is quantity and demand is rent. “The price of any commodity rises or falls by the proportion of the number of buyer and sellers.” and “that which regulates the price... [of goods] is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent.” The quantity theory of money forms a special case of this general theory. His idea is based on “money answers all things” (Ecclesiastes) or “rent of money is always sufficient, or more than enough,” and “varies very little...” Regardless of whether the demand for money is unlimited or constant, Locke concludes that as far as money is concerned, the demand is exclusively regulated by its quantity. He also investigates the determinants of demand and supply. For supply, goods in general are considered valuable because they can be exchanged, consumed and they must be scarce. For demand, goods are in demand because they yield a flow of income. Locke develops an early theory of capitalisation, such as land, which has value because “by its constant production of saleable commodities it brings in a certain yearly income.” Demand for money is almost the same as demand for goods or land; it depends on whether money is wanted as medium of exchange or as loanable funds. For medium of exchange “money is capable by exchange to procure us the necessaries or conveniences of life.” For loanable funds, “it comes to be of the same nature with land by yielding a certain yearly income ... or interest.”

Monetary thoughts

Locke distinguishes two functions of money, as a "counter" to measure value, and as a "pledge" to lay claim to goods. He believes that silver and gold, as opposed to paper money, are the appropriate currency for international transactions. Silver and gold, he says, are treated to have equal value by all of humanity and can thus be treated as a pledge by anyone, while the value of paper money is only valid under the government which issues it.

Locke argues that a country should seek a favourable balance of trade, lest it fall behind other countries and suffer a loss in its trade. Since the world money stock grows constantly, a country must constantly seek to enlarge its own stock. Locke develops his theory of foreign exchanges, in addition to commodity movements, there are also movements in country stock of money, and movements of capital determine exchange rates. The latter is less significant and less volatile than commodity movements. As for a country’s money stock, if it is large relative to that of other countries, it will cause the country’s exchange to rise above par, as an export balance would do.

He also prepares estimates of the cash requirements for different economic groups (landholders, labourers and brokers). In each group the cash requirements are closely related to the length of the pay period. He argues the brokers – middlemen – whose activities enlarge the monetary circuit and whose profits eat into the earnings of labourers and landholders, had a negative influence on both one's personal and the public economy that they supposedly contributed to.

The self

Locke defines the self as "that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends".[29] He does not, however, ignore "substance", writing that "the body too goes to the making the man."[30] The Lockean self is therefore a self-aware and self-reflective consciousness that is fixed in a body.

In his Essay, Locke explains the gradual unfolding of this conscious mind. Arguing against both the Augustinian view of man as originally sinful and the Cartesian position, which holds that man innately knows basic logical propositions, Locke posits an "empty" mind, a tabula rasa, which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas.[31]

John Locke's formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding was influenced by a 17th century Latin translationPhilosophus Autodidactus (published by Edward Pococke) of the Arabic philosophical novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan by the 12th centuryAndalusian-Islamic philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail" in the West). Ibn Tufail demonstrated the theory of tabula rasa as a thought experiment through his Arabic philosophical novel novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island, through experiencealone.[32]

Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an "empty cabinet", with the statement, "I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education."[33]

Locke also wrote that "the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences."[34]He argued that the "associations of ideas" that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which is introduced both of these concepts, Locke warns against, for example, letting "a foolish maid" convince a child that "goblins and sprites" are associated with the night for "darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other."[35]

"Associationism", as this theory would come to be called, exerted a powerful influence over eighteenth-century thought, particularlyeducational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley's attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).

Religious beliefs

Some scholars have seen Locke's political convictions as deriving from his religious beliefs.[36][37][38] Locke's religious trajectory began inCalvinist trinitarianism, but by the time of the Reflections (1695) Locke was advocating not just Socinian views on tolerance but also Socinian Christology; with veiled denial of the pre-existence of Christ.[39] However Wainwright (Oxford, 1987) notes that in the posthumously publishedParaphrase (1707) Locke's interpretation of one verse, Ephesians 1:10, is markedly different from that of Socinians like Biddle, and may indicate that near the end of his life Locke returned nearer to an Arian position.[40]

List of major works

§ (1689) A Letter Concerning Toleration

§ (1690) A Second Letter Concerning Toleration

§ (1692) A Third Letter for Toleration

§ (1689) Two Treatises of Government

§ (1690) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

§ (1693) Some Thoughts Concerning Education

§ (1695) The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures

§ (1695) A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

Major unpublished or posthumous manuscripts

§ (1660) First Tract of Government (or the English Tract)

§ (c.1662) Second Tract of Government (or the Latin Tract)

§ (1664) Questions Concerning the Law of Nature (definitive Latin text, with facing accurate English trans. in Robert Horwitz et al., eds., John Locke, Questions Concerning the Law of Nature, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990).

§ (1667) Essay Concerning Toleration

§ (1706) Of the Conduct of the Understanding

§ (1707) A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians


1. ^ Peter Laslett (1988). "Introduction: Locke and Hobbes". Two Treatises on Government. Cambridge University Press. p. 68.ISBN 9780521357302.

2. ^ Locke, John. A Letter Concerning Toleration Routledge, New York, 1991. p. 5 (Introduction)

3. ^ Delaney, Tim. The march of unreason: science, democracy, and the new fundamentalism Oxford University Press, New York, 2005. p. 18

4. ^ Godwin, Kenneth et al. School choice tradeoffs: liberty, equity, and diversity University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002. p. 12

5. ^ Becker, Carl Lotus. The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas Harcourt, Brace, 1922. p. 27

6. ^ Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 527–529. ISBN 0-13-158591-6.

7. ^ Broad, C.D. (2000). Ethics And the History of Philosophy. UK: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22530-2.

8. ^ Basil Duke Henning The House of Commons, 1660–1690, Volume 1

9. ^ Peter Laslett, "Two Treatises of Government and the Revolution of 1688," section III of Laslett's editorial "Introduction" to John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

10. ^ Britannica Online, s.v. John Locke

11. ^ "The Three Greatest Men". Retrieved 13 June 2009. "Jefferson identified Bacon, Locke, and Newton as "the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception". Their works in the physical and moral sciences were instrumental in Jefferson's education and world view."

12. ^ "The Letters of Thomas Jefferson: 1743–1826 Bacon, Locke, and Newton". Retrieved 13 June 2009. "Bacon, Locke and Newton, whose pictures I will trouble you to have copied for me: and as I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical & Moral sciences."

13. ^ called Bacon, Newton, and Locke, who had so indelibly shaped his ideas, "my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced"

14. ^ Seigel, Jerrold. The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe since the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2005) and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1989).

15. ^ McGrath, Alistair. 1998. Historical Theology, An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. p.214-5.

16. ^ Martin Cohen, Philosophical Tales (Blackwell, 2008), 101.

17. ^ James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

18. ^ James Farr, "'So Vile and Miserable an Estate' The Problem of Slavery in Locke's Political Thought," Political Theory 14, no. 2 (May 1986): 263–89.

19. ^ James Farr, "Locke, Natural Law, and New World Slavery,"Political Theory 36, no. 4 (August 2008): 495–522.

20. ^ a b Vaughn, Karen (1978). "John Locke and the Labor Theory of Value". Journal of Libertarian Studies 2 (4): 311—326. Retrieved 13 August 2011.

21. ^ Locke, John (1690). Two Treatises of Government (10th edition). Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 21 January 2009.

22. ^ because Hobbes was not available in libraries due to his presence on the index librorum prohibitorum

23. ^ Skinner, Quentin Visions of Politics. Cambridge.

24. ^ Locke, John (2009). Two Treatises on Government: A Translation Into Modern English. Industrial Systems Research. pp. 81.ISBN 9780906321478.

25. ^ "John Locke: �Inequality is inevitable and necessary"(PowerPoint). Department of Philosophy The University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 1 September 2011.

26. ^ "John Locke, Second Treatise, §§ 25--51, 123--26". The Founders Constitution. Retrieved 1 September 2011.

27. ^ "John Locke on Property". The School of Cooperative Individualism. Retrieved 1 September 2011.

28. ^ John Locke (1691) Some Considerations on the consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money

29. ^ Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Roger Woolhouse. New York: Penguin Books (1997), p. 307.

30. ^ Locke, Essay, p. 306.

31. ^ The American International Encyclopedia, J.J. Little Company, New York 1954, Volume 9.

32. ^ G. A. Russell (1994), The 'Arabick' Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England, pp. 224–262, Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004094598.

33. ^ Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Education and Of the Conduct of the Understanding. Eds. Ruth W. Grant and Nathan Tarcov. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc. (1996), p. 10.

34. ^ Locke, Some Thoughts, 10.

35. ^ Locke, Essay, 357.

36. ^ Greg Forster John Locke's politics of moral consensus 2005

37. ^ Kim Ian Parker The biblical politics of John Locke 2004 Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion

38. ^ John Locke: writings on religion ed. Victor Nuovo, Oxford 2002

39. ^ John Marshall John Locke: resistance, religion and responsibilityCambridge 1994. extensive discussion p.426

40. ^ John Locke, ed. Arthur William Wainwright A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Oxford 1987 p806

Secondary literature

§ Ashcraft, Richard, 1986. Revolutionary Politics & Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Discusses the relationship between Locke's philosophy and his political activities.)

§ Ayers, Michael R., 1991. Locke. Epistemology & Ontology Routledge (The standard work on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.)

§ Bailyn, Bernard, 1992 (1967). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Harvard Uni. Press. (Discusses the influence of Locke and other thinkers upon the American Revolution and on subsequent American political thought.)

§ G. A. Cohen, 1995. 'Marx and Locke on Land and Labour', in his Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality, Oxford University Press.

§ Cox, Richard, Locke on War and Peace, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960. (A discussion of Locke's theory of international relations.)

§ Chappell, Vere, ed., 19nn. The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Cambridge Uni. Press.

§ Dunn, John, 1984. Locke. Oxford Uni. Press. (A succinct introduction.)

§ —, 1969. The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the "Two Treatises of Government". Cambridge Uni. Press. (Introduced the interpretation which emphasises the theological element in Locke's political thought.)

§ Hudson, Nicholas, "John Locke and the Tradition of Nominalism," in: Nominalism and Literary Discourse, ed. Hugo Keiper, Christoph Bode, and Richard Utz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), pp. 283–99.

§ Macpherson. C. B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962). (Establishes the deep affinity from Hobbes to Harrington, the Levellers, and Locke through to nineteenth-century utilitarianism).

§ Moseley, Alexander (2007). John Locke: Continuum Library of Educational Thought. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8405-0.

§ Pangle, Thomas, The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988; paperback ed., 1990), 334 pages. (Challenges Dunn's, Tully's, Yolton's, and other conventional readings.)

§ Robinson, Dave; Judy Groves (2003). Introducing Political Philosophy. Icon Books. ISBN 1-84046-450-X.

§ Rousseau, George S. (2004). Nervous Acts: Essays on Literature, Culture and Sensibility. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-3453-3.

§ Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History, chap. 5B (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953). (Argues from a non-Marxist point of view for a deep affinity between Hobbes and Locke.)

§ Strauss, Leo. "Locke's Doctrine of Natural law," American Political Science Review 52 (1958) 490–501. (A critique of W. von Leyden's edition of Locke's unpublished writings on natural law.)

§ Tully, James, 1980. A Discourse on Property : John Locke and his Adversaries. Cambridge Uni. Press

§ Waldron, Jeremy, 2002. God, Locke and Equality. Cambridge Uni. Press.

§ Yolton, J. W., ed., 1969. John Locke: Problems and Perspectives. Cambridge Uni. Press.

§ Zuckert, Michael, Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

§ Locke Studies, appearing annually, publishes scholarly work on John Locke.


§ Works by John Locke at Project Gutenberg

§ Links to online books by John Locke

§ The Works of John Locke

§ 1823 Edition, 10 Volumes on PDF files, and additional resources

§ 1824 Edition, 9 volumes in multiple formats

§ John Locke Manuscripts

§ Updated versions of Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Second Treatise of Government, and Letter on Toleration, edited byJonathan Bennett

§ Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Thomas Hollis (A. Millar et al., 1764) See original text in The Online Library of Liberty

§ Works by or about John Locke in libraries (WorldCat catalog)

WILLIAM PETTY (1623-1687):

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Petty

William Petty

Full name William Petty

Born 27 May 1623 Romsey

Died 16 December 1687 London

Era 17th-century philosophy (Modern philosophy)

Region Western philosophers

School Classical economics

Main interests Political philosophy, ethics,economics

Notable ideas Division of labour, the growth ofLondon, fiscal theory, monetary theory, national income accounting,economic statistics

Sir William Petty FRS (27 May 1623 – 16 December 1687) was an English economist, scientist and philosopher. He first became prominent serving Oliver Cromwell and Commonwealth in Ireland. He developed efficient methods to survey the land that was to be confiscated and given to Cromwell's soldiers. He also managed to remain prominent under King Charles II and King James II, as did many others who had served Cromwell.

He was Member of the Parliament of England briefly and was also a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, and was a charter member of the Royal Society. It is for his theories on economics and his methods of political arithmetic that he is best remembered, however, and he is attributed as having started the philosophy of 'laissez-faire' in relation to government activity. He was knighted in 1661. He was the great-grandfather of the future Prime Minister, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 2nd Earl of Shelburne and 1st Marquess of Landsdowne.

[edit]Life and influences

Petty was a founder member of The Royal Society. He was born and buried in Romsey and was a contemporary and friend of Samuel Pepys. In 1858, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, one of Petty's descendants erected a memorial and likeness of Petty in Romsey Abbey. The text on it reads: "a true patriot and a sound philosopher who, by his powerful intellect, his scientific works and indefatigable industry, became a benefactor to his family and an ornament to his country". His grave slab on the floor of the south choir aisle reads HERE LAYES SIR WILLIAM PETY.

Petty's father and grandfather were clothiers. He was a precocious and intelligent youngster, and became a cabin boy in 1637, but was set ashore in Normandy after breaking his leg on board. After this setback, he applied in Latin to study with the Jesuits in Caen, supporting himself by teaching English. After a year, he returned to England and had by now a thorough knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, mathematics and astronomy.

After an uneventful period in the Navy, he left to study in Holland in 1643, where he developed an interest in anatomy. Through an English professor in Amsterdam, he became the personal secretary to Hobbes allowing him contact with Descartes, Gassendi and Mersenne. In 1646, he returned to England and, after developing a double-writing instrument with little success in sales, he studied medicine at Oxford University. He befriended Hartlib and Boyle, and he became a member of the London Philosophical Society, and possibly met John Milton. By 1651, he had risen to Professor of Anatomy at Brasenose College, Oxford and was also Professor of Music in London.

In 1652, he left on a leave of absence and traveled with Oliver Cromwell's army in Ireland, as physician-general. His opposition to conventional universities, being committed to ‘new science’ as inspired by Francis Bacon and imparted by his afore-mentioned acquaintances, perhaps pushed him from Oxford. He was pulled to Ireland perhaps by sense of ambition and desire for wealth and power. His breadth of interests was such that he successfully secured the contract for charting Ireland in 1654, so that those who had lent funds to Cromwell's army might be repaid in land - a means of ensuring the army was self-financing. This enormous task he completed in 1656 and became known as the Down Survey, later published (1685) as Hiberniae Delineatio. As his reward, he acquired approximately 30 000 acres (120 km²) in Kenmare, in southwest Ireland, and £9 000. This enormous personal advantage to Petty led to persistent court cases on charges of bribery and breach of trust until his death. None were ever proven.

Now back in England, as a Cromwellian supporter, he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1659 for West Looe. Despite his political allegiances, he was well-treated at the Restoration, although he lost some of his Irish lands. In 1662, he was invited to join the 'Invisible College', a club of intellectuals and was a charter member of the Royal Society of the same year. This year also saw him write his first work on economics, his Treatise of Taxes and Contributions. Petty counted among his many scientific interests naval architecture: he had become convinced of the superiority of double-hulled boats, although they were not always successful; the Experiment reached Porto on 1664, but sank on the way back. He was knighted in 1661 by Charles II and returned to Ireland in 1666, where he remained for most of the next twenty years.

The events that took him from Oxford to Ireland marked a shift from medicine and the physical sciences to the social sciences, and Petty lost all his Oxford offices. The social sciences became the area that he studied for the rest of his life. His primary interest became Ireland’s prosperity and his works describe that country and propose many remedies for its then backward condition. He helped found the Dublin Society in 1682. Returning ultimately to London in 1685, he died in 1687.

He regarded his life in bittersweet terms. He had risen from humble origins to mix with the intellectual elite and was by 35 a considerably wealthy man and leading member of the 'progressive sciences'. Nonetheless, he was insecure about his land holdings and his ambitions of obtaining important political posts remained frustrated. Perhaps he expected the astronomical rise he experienced in his early years to continue throughout his life. Contemporaries described him, nonetheless, as humorous, good-natured and rational.

He is most well known for economic history and statistic writings, pre-Adam Smith. Of particular interest were Petty's forays into statistical analysis. Petty's work in political arithmetic, along with the work of John Graunt, laid the foundation for modern census techniques. Moreover, this work in statistical analysis, when further expanded by writers like Josiah Child, documented some of the first expositions of modern insurance. Vernon Louis Parrington notes him as an early expositor of the labor theory of value as discussed in Treatise of Taxes in 1692.[1]

[edit]Economic works and theories: overview

Before discussing Petty's economic theories, it is important to point out two crucial influences in his life. The first is Thomas Hobbes, for whom Petty acted as personal secretary. According to Hobbes, theory should set out the rational requirements for ‘civil peace and material plenty’. As Hobbes had centered on peace, Petty chose prosperity.

Secondly, the influence of Francis Bacon was profound. Bacon, and indeed Hobbes, held the conviction that mathematics and the senses must be the basis of all rational sciences. This passion for accuracy led Petty to famously declare that his form of science would only use measurable phenomena and would seek quantitative precision, rather than rely on comparatives or superlatives, yielding a new subject that he named political arithmetic. Petty thus carved a niche for himself as the first dedicated economic scientist, amidst the merchant-pamphleteers, such as Thomas Mun or Josiah Child, and philosopher-scientists occasionally discussing economics, such as Locke.

He was indeed writing before the true development of political economy. As such, many of his claims for precision are of imperfect quality. Nonetheless, Petty wrote three main works on economics, Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (written in 1662), Verbum Sapienti (1665) and Quantulumcunque concerning money (1682), all refreshingly concise. These works, which received great attention in the 1690s, show his theories on major areas of what would later become economics. What follows is an analysis of his most important theories, those on fiscal contributions, national wealth, the money supply and circulation velocity, value, the interest rate, international trade and government investment.

[edit]Fiscal contributions

Fiscal contributions were of prime concern to policymakers in the 17th century, as they have remained ever since, for the wise country would not spend above its revenues. By Petty’s time, England was engaged in war with Holland, and in the first three chapters of Treatise of Taxes and Contributions, Petty sought to establish principles of taxation and public expenditure, to which the monarch could adhere, when deciding how to raise money for the war. Petty lists six kinds of public charge, namely defence, governance, the pastorage of men’s souls, education, the maintenance of impotents of all sorts and infrastructure, or things of universal good. He then discusses general and particular causes of changes in these charges. He thinks that there is great scope for reduction of the first four public charges, and recommends increased spending on care for the elderly, sick, orphans, etc., as well as the government employment of supernumeraries.

On the issue of raising taxes, Petty was a definite proponent of consumption taxes. He recommended that in general taxes should be just sufficient to meet the various types of public charges that he listed. They should also be horizontally equitable, regular and proportionate. He condemned poll taxes as very unequal and excise on beer as taxing the poor excessively. He recommended a much higher quality of statistical information, in order to raise taxes more fairly. Imports should be taxed, but only in such a way that would put them on a level playing field with domestic produce. A vital aspect of economies at this time was that they were transforming from barter economies to money economies. Linked to this, and aware of the scarcity of money, Petty recommends that taxes be payable in forms other than gold or silver, which he estimated to be less than 1% of national wealth. To him, too much importance was placed on money, 'which is to the whole effect of the Kingdom… not [even] one to 100'.

[edit]National income accounting

In making the above estimate, Petty introduces in the first two chapters of Verbum Sapienti the first rigorous assessments of national income and wealth. To him, it was all too obvious that a country’s wealth lay in more than just gold and silver. He worked off an estimation that the average personal income was £6 13s 4d per annum, with a population of six million, meaning that national income would be £40m. Petty produces estimates, some more reliable than others, for the various components of national income, including land, ships, personal estates and housing. He then distinguishes between the stocks (£250m) and the flows yielding from them (£15m). The discrepancy between these flows and his estimate for national income (£40m) leads Petty to postulate that the other £25m is the yield from what must be £417m of labour stock, the value of the people. This gives a total wealth for England in the 1660s of £667m.


Petty's only statistical technique is the use of simple averages. He would not be a statistician by today's standards but during his time a statistician was merely one that employed the use of quantitative data. Because obtaining census data was difficult, if not impossible, especially for Ireland, he applied methods of estimation. The way in which he would estimate the population would be to start with estimating the population of London. He would do this by either estimating it by exports or by deaths. His method of using exports is by considering that a 30 percent increase in exports corresponds to a similar proportionate increase in population. The way he would use deaths would be by multiplying the number of deaths by 30 — estimating that one out of thirty people die each year. To obtain the population of all of England he would multiply the population of London by 8. Such a simple use of estimation could have easily have been abused and Petty was accused more than once of doctoring the figures for the Crown. (Henry Spiegel)

[edit]Money supply and the velocity of its circulation

This figure for the stock of wealth was contrasted with a money supply in gold and silver of only £6m. Petty believed that there was a certain amount of money that a nation needed to drive its trade. Hence it was possible to have too little money circulating in an economy, which would mean that people would have to rely on barter. It would also be possible for there to be too much money in an economy. But the topical question was, as he asks in chapter 3 of Verbum Sapienti, would £6m be enough to drive a nation’s trade, especially if the King wanted to raise additional funds for the war with Holland?

The answer for Petty lay in the velocity of money’s circulation. Anticipating the quantity theory of money often said to be initiated by John Locke, whereby Yp = MSv, Petty stated that if Y was to be increased for a given money supply, 'revolutions' must occur in smaller circles (i.e. higher v). This could be done through the establishment of a bank. He explicitly states in Verbum Sapienti "nor is money wanting to answer all the ends of a well policed state, notwithstanding the great decreases thereof which have happened within these Twenty years (p. 113)" and that higher velocity is the answer. He also mentions that there is nothing unique about gold and silver in fulfilling the functions of money and that money is the means to an end, not the end itself:

Nor were it hard to substitute in the place of Money [gold and silver] (were a competency of it wanting) what should be equivalent unto it. For Money is but the Fiat of the Body-Politick, whereof too much doth often hinder its agility, as too little makes it sick... so doth Money in the State quicken its Action, feeds from abroad in the time of Dearth at home.' (Hull 1899: p.113)

What is striking about these passages is his intellectual rigour, which put him far ahead of the mercantilist writers of earlier in the century. It is also interesting to note the use of biological analogies to illustrate his point, a trend continued by the physiocrats in France early in the 18th century.

[edit]Theory of value

On value, Petty continued the debate begun by Aristotle, and chose to develop an input-based theory of value: all things ought to be valued by two natural Denominations, which is Land and Labour (p. 44). Both of these would be prime sources of taxable income. Like Richard Cantillon after him, he sought to devise some equation or par between the 'mother and father' of output, land and labour, and to express value accordingly. He still included general productivity, one’s 'art and industry'. He applied his theory of value to rent. The natural rent of a land was the excess of what a labourer produces on it in a year over what he ate himself and traded for necessities. It was therefore the profit above the various costs related to the factors involved in production.

[edit]The interest rate

The natural rate of rent is related to his theories on usury. At the time, many religious writers still condemned the charging of interest as sinful. Petty also involved himself in the debate on usury and interest rates, regarding the phenomenon as a reward for forbearance on the part of the lender. Incorporating his theories of value, he asserted that, with perfect security, the rate of interest should equal the rent for land that the principal could have bought - again, a precocious insight into what would later become general equilibrium findings. Where security was more 'casual', the return should be greater — a return for risk. Having established the justification for usury itself, that of forbearance, he then shows his Hobbesian qualities, arguing against any government regulation of the interest rate, pointing to the 'vanity and fruitlessness of making civil positive laws against the laws of nature' (p. 48).

[edit]Laissez-faire governance

This is one of the major themes of Petty’s writings, summed up by his use of the phrase vadere sicut vult, whence we get laissez-faire. As mentioned earlier, the motif of medicine was also useful to Petty, and he warned against over-interference by the government in the economy, seeing it as analogous to a physician tampering excessively with his patient. He applied this to monopolies, controls on the exportation of money and on the trade of commodities. They were, to him, vain and harmful to a nation. He recognized the price effects of monopolies, citing the French king’s salt monopoly as an example. In another work, Political Arithmetic, Petty also recognized the importance of economies of scale. He described the phenomenon of the division of labour, asserting that a good is both of better quality and cheaper, if many work on it. Petty said that the gain is greater 'as the manufacture itself is greater'.

[edit]Foreign exchange and control of trade

On the efflux of specie, Petty thought it vain to try and control it, and dangerous, as it would leave the merchants to decide what goods a nation buys with the smaller amount of money. He noted in Quantulumcunque concerning money that countries plentiful in gold have no such laws restricting specie. On exports in general, he regarded prescriptions, such as recent Acts of Parliament forbidding the export of wool and yarn, as 'burthensome'. Further restrictions 'would do us twice as much harm as the losse of our said Trade' (p. 59), albeit with a concession that he is no expert in the study of the wool trade.

On prohibiting imports, for example from Holland, such restrictions did little other than drive up prices, and were only useful if imports vastly exceeded exports. Petty saw far more use in going to Holland and learning whatever skills they have than trying to resist nature. Epitomizing his viewpoint, he thought it preferable to sell cloth for 'debauching' foreign wines, rather than leave the clothiers unemployed.

[edit]Full employment

The goal of full employment was of most importance to Petty, having recognised that labour was one of the major sources of wealth for individuals and 'the greatest Wealth and Strength of the Kingdom'. In this vein, he extended the cloth-wine argument above, arguing that it is better to employ men and burn their product or to engage in extravagant public works projects, than to have indolent 'supernumeraries' in an economy — hence his famous example of relocating Stonehenge across the plains of Salisbury.

[edit]Division of labour

Petty made a practical study of the division of labour, showing its existence and usefulness in Dutch shipyards. Classically the workers in a shipyard would build ships as units, finishing one before starting another. But the Dutch had it organised with several teams each doing the same tasks for successive ships. People with a particular task to do must have discovered new methods that were only later observed and justified by writers on political economy.

Petty also applied the principle to his survey of Ireland. His breakthrough was to divide up the work so that large parts of it could be done by people with no extensive training.

[edit]Urban society

Petty projected the growth of the city of London and supposed that it might swallow the rest of England—not so far from what actually happened:

Now, if the city double its people in 40 years, and the present number be 670,000, and if the whole territory be 7,400,000, and double in 360 years, as aforesaid, then by the underwritten table it appears that A.D. 1840 the people of the city will be 10,718,880, and those of the whole country but 10,917,389, which is but inconsiderably more. Wherefore it is certain and necessary that the growth of the city must stop before the said year 1840, and will be at its utmost height in the next preceding period, A.D. 1800, when the number of the city will be eight times its present number, 5,359,000. And when (besides the said number) there will be 4,466,000 to perform the tillage, pasturage, and other rural works necessary to be done without the said city". (OF THE GROWTH OF THE CITY OF LONDON — among the essays downloadable at the Gutenberg link.)

He imagined a future in which "the city of London is seven times bigger than now, and that the inhabitants of it are 4,690,000 people, and that in all the other cities, ports, towns, and villages, there are but 2,710,000 more." He expected this some time round 1800, extrapolating existing trends. Long before Malthus, he noticed the potential of human population to increase. But he also saw no reason why such a society should not be prosperous.

[edit]Summary and legacy

The above shows the contribution Petty made to theoretical issues that have dominated the later subject of economics ever since. He covered such a wide range of topics according to his political arithmetic method, i.e. like modern economists, he set out to prove his claims by finding data and statistics, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence. He wrote rigorously, but also with concision and humour. The issues that Petty thought about and wrote are major topics that have plagued the minds of economic theorists ever since.

He influenced not only immediate successors such as Richard Cantillon but also some of the greatest minds in economics, including Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. With Adam Smith, he shared a Weltanschauung that believed in a harmonious natural world. The parallels in their canons of taxation epitomise their joint belief in natural liberty and equality. They both saw the benefits of specialisation and the division of labour. Furthermore, Smith and Petty developed labour theories of value, as did David Ricardo, Henry George, and Karl Marx in the 19th century.

Smith says nothing about Petty in The Wealth Of Nations. In his published writings, there is nothing apart for a reference in a letter to Lord Shelburne, one of Petty's aristocratic descendants (Correspondence Of Adam Smith, Letter No. 30, Glasgow Edition).

Petty continued to exercise influence. Karl Marx believed, as did Petty, that the total effort put in by the aggregate of ordinary workers represented a far greater contribution to the economy than contemporary thought recognised. This belief led Petty to conclude in his estimates that labour ranked as the greatest source of wealth in the kingdom. Marx’s conclusions were that surplus labour was the source of all profit, and that the labourer was alienated from his surplus and thus from society. Marx's low esteem of Adam Smith is mirrored in his high consideration of Petty's analysis, as witnessed by countless quotations in his major work Das Kapital. John Maynard Keynes also wrote at a time of mass discord, as unemployment was rampant and economies stagnant during the 1930s. He showed how governments could manage aggregate demand to stimulate output and employment, much as Petty had done with simpler examples in the 17th century. Petty’s simple £100-through-100-hands multiplier was refined by Keynes and incorporated into his model.


§ A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (1662)

§ Political Arithmetic posthum. (approx. 1676, pub. 1690)

§ Verbum Sapienti posthum. (1664, pub. 1691)

§ Political Anatomy of Ireland posthum. (1672, pub. 1691)

§ Quantulumcunque Concerning Money posthum. (1682, pub. 1695)


§ Aspromourgos, Tony (1988) "The life of William Petty in relation to his economics" in History of Political Economy 20: 337-356.

§ Heckscher, Eli (1935) Mercantilism. London: Allen & Unwin.

§ Hull, Charles H. (ed.) (1899) The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty. London: Routledge/Thoemmes.

§ Hutchison, Terence (1988). "Petty on Policy, Theory and Method," in Before Adam Smith: the Emergence of Political Economy 1662-1776. Basil Blackwell.

§ Letwin, W. (1963) The Origins of Economic Science. Methuen.

§ McCormick, Ted (2009), William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

§ Routh, Guy (1989) The Origin of Economic Ideas. London: Macmillan.

§ Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1954) A History of Economic Analysis. London: Allen & Unwin.

[edit]External links

Some of Petty's works are available on the Archive for the History of Economic Thought website

§ William Petty

§ Works by William Petty at Project Gutenberg

§ Political Arithmetick (3rd Edition, 1690

For information on his family.

§ Petty FitzMaurice (Lansdowne) family tree

The National Portrait Gallery has five portraits of Sir William Petty

§ Search the collection

A criticism of William Petty's defense of religious intolerance

§ Critique of "A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions"

§ Kenmare Journal - A Bridge to the Past.


[WILHELM GEORG FRIEDRICH ROSCHER (1817–1894), German economist, was a descendant of an old Hanoverian family of officials and judges. He studied history and political science at Göttingen and Berlin. In 1840 he became a lecturer in both these subjects at the University of Göttingen, where in 1843 he rose to the rank of professor-extraordinary (comparable to associate professor), and the following year to full professor. In 1848 he was called to the University of Leipzig, where he remained until his death.

Roscher is commonly considered, with Karl Knies and Bruno Hildebrand, to be one of the founders of the “older historical school” of German economics. In his small book Grundriss zu Vorles-ungen tiber die Staatsurithschaft nach geschicht-licher Methode (1843) he based the study of political economy on the principles of historical investigation. He was one of the first economists other than Friedrich List to have done so; although in France Auguste Comte had argued in his Cours de philosophie positive, 1830–1842, that the historical method should be applied to all the social sciences, he had himself concentrated on sociology.

The Grundriss was the basis for Roscher’s widely read System der Volkswirtschaft, a work of five volumes published between 1854 and 1894 and described in its subtitle as a handbook and reader for businessmen and students. It became the most influential textbook of political economy in Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century. Roscher also wrote some purely historical and philosophical books and articles in his early years, some political treatises, and many studies in the history of economic literature. His only work of lasting significance, however, is his Geschichte der National-oekonomik in Deutschland (1874).

Roscher called his method “historical” or “historico-physiological,” in contrast to the “philosophical” or “idealistic” method. He contended that the object of political economy is not to establish the best possible state of things, but to describe the actual state at which the economy has arrived through continual development. Of the two crucial questions, “What is?” (positive economics) and “What ought to be?” (normative economics), Roscher wanted to answer only the former; the latter question, in his view, could not be studied scientifically because it depends on constantly changing opinions and individual choices. While a science could never be based on the German idealistic philosophy, the study of what actually occurred could provide a “firm island of scientific truth which may be accepted in the same manner as the adherents of different systems of medicine all admit the teaching of mathematical physics.” ([1854–1894] 1901–1922, vol. 1, p. 80).

Compared to the “younger historical school,” led by Gustav Schmoller, Roscher was much closer to the classical theory of economics. In contrast to List, whose focus was on the productive forces of every nation and who was therefore interested only in the dynamics of development, Roscher accepted the value theory of the classical school for the analysis of any given stage of the economy and conceived of a process of organic development taking place between statically conceived stages. He thought that the life of nations, like the vegetable and animal world, has four such stages of development: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. Thus, development is in both an ascending and a descending direction (in contrast to List’s theory that evolution is exclusively ascending).

Roscher believed that development could best be studied by inquiring into the history of ancient nations like Greece and Rome, because that history has been terminated. Three factors of production govern the evolution of every nation: land, labor, and capital. Of these, one is always predominant in each successive stage of life. A close, and especially a statistical, knowledge of economic facts, according to the “objectivist” spirit of Leopold von Ranke, would permit, in Roscher’s view, the solution of conflicts of interest between the factors of production. Roscher was much more skilled in collecting obscure details and understanding particular events and theories than in formulating a theory of his own. Lacking any systematic theory, he was not forced to come to terms with the historical facts he collected or to recognize the futility of his search for “laws of nature” or “laws of evolution.”

Roscher could not fulfill the declared aim of his historical approach: to achieve for political economy what the historical approach of F. K. von Savigny and Karl F. Eichhorn had already achieved for the field of law and legislation. However, his Geschichte der National-oekonomik in Deutschland remains an outstanding work that must be consulted by everyone who does research in that field. Roscher was interested not only in the history of economic analysis but also in the personality of every economist and in the character of every economic work. His book is, therefore, a compendium, perhaps even an encyclopedia, of the history of German economists and of German economic and economic-political literature up to 1874. EDGAR SALIN.

[For the historical context of Roscher’s work, see Economic thought, article on the historical school, and the biographies of List; Ranke; Savigny. For discussion of the subsequent development of Roscher’s ideas, see the biographies of Hildebrand; Knies; Schmoller.]


1843 Grundriss zu Vorlesungen iiber die Staatswirthschaft nach geschichtlicher Methode. Göttingen (Germany): Dietrich.

(1854–1894) 1901–1922 System der Volkswirtschaft: Ein Hand- und Lesebuch für Geschäftsmänner und Studierende. 5 vols. Stuttgart (Germany): Cotta. → Volume 1: Die Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie, 1922. Volume 2: Nationalökonomik des Ackerbaues und der verwandten Urproduktionen, 1912. Volume 3:Nationalökonomik des Handels und Gewerbfieisses, 1913–1917. Volume 4: System der Finanzwissenschaft,1901. Volume 5: System der Armenpflege und Armenpolitik, 1906.

(1861) 1878 Ansichten der Volkswirthschaft aus dem geschichtlichen Standpunkte. Heidelberg: Winter.

(1874) 1924 Geschichte der National-oekonomik in Deutschland. 2d ed. Munich and Berlin: Oldenbourg.

(1895) 1917 Geistliche Gedanken ernes Nationalökonomen. New ed. Dresden (Germany): Zahn & Jaensch.


Cunningham, William 1894 Why Had Roscher So Little Influence in England? American Academy of Political and Social Science, Annals. 5:317–334.

Oncken, A. (1910)1963 William Roscher: 1817–1894. Volume 3, pages 323–327 in Robert H. I. Palgrave,Dictionary of Political Economy. Rev. ed. New York: Kelley Reprints.

Schmoller, Gustav 1888 Wilhelm Roscher. Pages 147–171 in Zur Litteraturgeschichte der Staats- und Sozialwissenschaften. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.

Verzeichnis von W. Roschers Schriften in der Original-sprache und in Uebersetzungen. 1894 Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologische-Historische Klasse, Berichte. 46:222–226. → A comprehensive bibliography of Roscher’s writings.

Weber, Max (1922) 1951 Roschers historische Methode. Pages 3–42 in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissen-schaftslehre. 2d ed. Tübingen (Germany): Mohr.]

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