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Economic Thought Before Adam  Smith

Economic Thought Before Adam Smith

An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Volume I

Murray N. Rothbard

The late Murray N. Rothbard, formerly S.J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US

1995 576 pp Hardback 978 1 85278 961 9

Hardback £137.00 on-line price £123.30

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‘. . . no review can do justice to the scores and scores of insights and scholarly discoveries in this volume. . . . Murray Rothbard’s two volumes are a monument of twentieth century scholarship.’
– David Gordon, The Mises Review

‘. . . the magnitude of Rothbard’s achievement was such that his legacy is assured; his contribution to the cause of liberty in America will not only endure but continue to grow in stature. As an economist, he succeeded in firmly establishing the Austrian school of economics in America, expanding and refining the legacy of his own mentor, the great Ludwig von Mises.’
– Justin Raimondo, Chronicles

This is the first extensive treatment from a modern Austrian perspective of the history of economic thought up to Adam Smith and as such takes into account the profound influence of religious, social and political thought upon economics.

Contents
Contents: Introduction 1. The first philosopher-economists: the Greeks 2. The Christian Middle Ages 3. From Middle Ages to Renaissance 4. The Late Spanish scholastics 5. Protestants and Catholics 6. Absolutist thought in Italy and France 7. Mercantilism: Serving the absolutist State 8. French Mercantilistic Thought in the Seventeenth Century 9. The Liberal Reaction Against Mercantilism in Seventeenth Century France 10. Mercantilism and Freedom in England from the Tudors to the Civil War 11. Mercantilism and Freedom in England from the Civil War to 1750 12. The Founding Father of Modern Economics: Richard Cantillon 13. Physiocracy in mid-Eighteenth Century France 14. The Brilliance of Turgot 15. The Scottish Enlightenment 16. The Celebrated Adam Smith 17. The Spread of the Smithian Movement Bibliographical Essay

Further information

‘Rothbard’s two-volume history of economic thought will inspire much fruitful discussion . . . Works that combine so much scholarship, clarity, freshness, and courage have become rare in economics.’
– Paul Heyne, The Independent Review

‘. . . the magnitude of Rothbard’s achievement was such that his legacy is assured; his contribution to the cause of liberty in America will not only endure but continue to grow in stature. As an economist, he succeeded in firmly establishing the Austrian school of economics in America, expanding and refining the legacy of his own mentor, the great Ludwig von Mises.’
– Justin Raimondo, Chronicles

‘To say that Murray Rothbard wrote with a polemical flair is an understatement of astonishing proportions. . . . The volumes are beautifully produced by Edward Elgar and anyone interested in Rothbard’s thought, the history of economic liberalism, and the history of economic thought in general, will want these volumes in their personal collection. An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought is vintage Rothbard, which means that the volumes are very readable, always unique in interpretation. . . . In short Rothbard’s An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought is a major contribution to the history of economic thought in general, and to Austrian economics in particular, and it deserves a wide circulation. It ranks with the contributions to intellectual history – not as a textbook of the wrong opinions of dead men, but as an original theoretical work whose intellectual story, if listened to, would surely overturn the received wisdom of our day and lead to a major recasting of the disciplines of economics and of political economy.’
– Peter J. Boettke, Economic Affairs

‘. . . no review can do justice to the scores and scores of insights and scholarly discoveries in this volume. . . . Murray Rothbard’s two volumes are a monument of twentieth century scholarship.’
– David Gordon, The Mises Review

‘. . . the most readable history of economic thought ever written. . .’
– Michael Prowse, America

‘. . . it provides an extremely wide-ranging treatment of the periods and topics it covers. . . . this is a controversial book, written from a clear-cut standpoint. . . . an extremely exciting, even brilliant book.’
– Roger E. Backhouse, History of Economic Thought

‘. . . consistently interesting and provocative – a pleasure to read. If you want a basic introduction to the development of economic ideas up to the mid-ninteenth century, I can’t think of a more stimulating and enjoyable way to get it. Rothbard delivers his message in a bombastic and prophetic manner, condemning all the huge mistakes of his predecessors and never revealing a moment of self-doubt. This is not the meticulous and carefully qualified tone of a philosopher in the natural law tradition such as Aquinas; it is the voice of a Luther or a marx.’
– Robert H. Nelson, Liberty

‘Rothbard – not just the libertarian guru but the joyful and indefatigable scholar – makes the thinkers even of reputedly dreary epochs come alive. . . Rothbard’s work helps underline why economists should study the history of thought. . . Rothbard’s work will provide inspiration for rising generations of Austrian economists.’
– Leland B. Yeager, The Review of Austrian Economics

‘Rothbard’s treatise makes a good case for the study of economic thought and provides a good introduction to Austrian economics by showing its links with earlier thinkers. . . . friend and foe alike will benefit from Rothbard’s atypical approach. His discussions of every thinker are enriched with insights on philosophy, history, religion, political movements, and the philosophy of science. The two volumes are jam-packed with information and research ideas.’
– Mark Thornton, Southern Economic Journal

This is the first extensive treatment from a modern Austrian perspective of the history of economic thought up to Adam Smith and as such takes into account the profound influence of religious, social and political thought upon economics.

In Economic Thought before Adam Smith, Murray Rothbard contends that laissez-faire liberalism and economic thought itself began with the Catholic scholastics and early Roman and canon law, rather than with Adam Smith. The scholastics, he argues, established and developed the subjective utility and scarcity theory of value, as well as the theory that prices, or the value of money, depend on its supply and demand. This continental, or ‘pre-Austrian’ tradition, was destroyed, rather than developed, by Adam Smith whose strong Calvinist tendencies towards glorifying labour, toil and thrift is contrasted with the emphasis in Scholastic economic thought towards labour in the service of consumption.

Tracing economic thought from the Greeks to the Scottish Enlightenment, this book is notable for its inclusion of all the important figures in each school of thought with their theories assessed in historical context. Classical Economics, the second volume of Professor Rothbard’s history of economic thought from an Austrian perspective, is also available.



 
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