Quesnay and Physiocracy Studies and Materials
Cahiers déconomie politique Collection dirigée par Arnaud Orain
Depuis plus de vingt-cinq ans, les Cahiers dÉconomie Poli-tique relient létude des é conomistes du passé aux débats ac-tuels en théorie économique. Afin de mieux poursuivre cet ob-jet, une collection douvrages est créée. Y prendront place prin-cipale ment des textes dauteurs anciens devenus introuvables ou demeurés inédits, mais aussi des essais originaux.
S. Meyssonnier (éd.), Traités sur le commerce de Josiah Child, suivi des Remarques de Jacques Vincent de Gournay , 2008. J.A. Schumpeter, Théorie de la monnaie et de la banque I. Lessence de la monnaie , 2005. J.A. Schumpeter, Théorie de la monnaie et e la banque II. Théorie appliquée , 2005. Gilbert Abraham-Frois et Émeric Lendjel (présentées par), Les oeuvres économiques de labbé Potron , 2004. Marquis de Mirabeau, François Quesnay, Traité de la monar-chie , 1999.
Quesnay and Physiocracy Studies and Materials
Edited by Jean Cartelier and Gino Longhitano
with Giordano Otello Marilli Arnaud Orain Concetta Spoto Salvatore Tiné
© L'H ARMATTAN , 2012 5-7, rue de l'École-Polytechnique ; 75005 Paris http://www.librairieharmattan.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com ISBN : 978-2-296-96603-1 EAN : 9782296966031
Who cares nowadays about Quesnay and Physiocracy, except for a few specialists, all of whom can be found in academic circles ? Hardly any-one, to be sure. But why should we be interested by such old-fashioned, outlandish theses as exclusive productivity of land or legal despot-ism? Why try to draw attention to these almost totally forgotten ideas by publishing a book dealing with them? For the sake of scholarly knowledge, is certainly part of the answer. Quesnays Tableau économique has fascinated historians of economic thought for a long time, as one of the first quantitative models of society as a whole. But this must not lead us to neglect the important critiques to which the Tableau was subjected at the time of its release. Arnaud Orain deals with Quesnays two main opponents, Forbonnais and Graslin. He proposes a new analysis of the debates. Economists and historians inter-ested in Physiocracy will also be glad to find here some interesting doc-uments such as the tables of the Journal de lAgriculture, du Commerce et des Finances and of the Ephémérides du Citoyen ; thanks, respectively, to O. Marilli and C. Spoto. The same will be grateful to S. Tiné for his perti-nent and well-informed comments on the way Quesnay has been pub-lished and interpreted during the 19 th and 20 th centuries, and to G. Long-hitano for making public the content of Quesnays library. But there are more than purely academic reasons to cite regarding the reasons for a fresh look at the Divin Doc t eur s writings. Somewhat para-doxically, the main one is the topical aspect of Quesnays finest achievement. Through the Tableau économique, the substitution of eco-nomics ( la science nouvelle, according to Dupont de Nemours) for politics was advocated for the first time (and realized at a theoretical level). Instead of dealing with the very complicated nexus of moral and po-litical values (the privileges of the Nobility and Clergy, Parliaments pre-rogatives, and so on) Quesnay proposes a pure quantitative framework whose unique guideline is the amount of produit net and its reproduc-tion. The Sovereign has nothing to do but comply with the natural laws the new science has unveiled. Such an attitude echoes a discourse in cur-rent circulation: the rate of growth is proclaimed to be the main concern of politicians, and everything else welfare policy, international affairs, etc. must be subject to that main objective. Economics, and its deter-minism, tends to replace politics, at least as a means of persuasion.
An inquiry into the internal logic of the Tableau reveals that science is a disguise for politics, and that the main propositions claimed by Ques-nay have no firm basis, but are largely arbitrary and over-determined by a political project of re-foundation of the French monarchy. A careful study of the historical context in which Quesnay put forward his theo-ries shows that, more than in the Tableau économique, their ultimate truth is to be found in the Traité de la monarchie, which remained unpublished until 1999. J. Cartelier, on a theoretical level, and G. Longhitano, on a his-torical level, make it clear that the invention of political economy is in fact the invention of modern politics.
Support for the editing of this volume came from the Cahiers dÉconomie Politique and the University of Catania.
9 François Quesnay : Wealth, Science, Societies ( Gino Longhitano ) 61 Nobility and Royaume agricole : The Tableau économique as a Political Utopia ( Jean Cartelier ) 87 Graslin and Forbonnais against the Tableau économique (1767) ( Arnaud Orain ) 113 François Quesnay: Editions and Interpretations ( Salvatore Tiné ) 137 The « Journal de lAgriculture, du Commerce & des Finances » ( Giordano Otello Marilli ) 155 The « Éphémérides du Citoyen » ( Concetta Spoto ) 193 The Library of François Quesnay ( Gino Longhitano )
François Quesnay: Wealth, Science, Societies
Gino Longhitano 1
1. With his Tableau économique , Quesnay demonstrated how effectively a royaume agricole works, whose fortune is guided in accordance with the rules outlined in the natural order, and is inspired by the science of political economy. This science is not limited to a science of wealth, it aspires to be a science of society. The basis of this project is a complex overview of the French society, economy and politics of the time; it also includes a clear stance on the political debate taking place in France dur-ing the middle of the 18 th Century. The idea of a balanced society of ranks is refuted so as is refuted the idea of an absolutism of Colbertist-industrialist inspiration. A model of social hierarchies was proposed, which pin-pointed the kernel of new society in the landowner citizen and is founded on production. It is a design that devastates the social hierarchies of the ancien régime ; however, it does understand that this production coincides exclusively with mans work that is supported by the direct collaboration of nature. It is in this work that an inde-pendent society, in the direct integration of man and the environment, is founded. The other human activities manufacturing, commerce that do not enjoy a direct and immediate relationship with territorial produc-tion, are nothing else but costs , subsequent to and outside of the produc-tion process. The Tableau économique depicts this society a royaume agricole as a nation composed not of ranks , but of three classes of citi-zens, defined by their position in the economy: landowners , productive class and sterile class . The wealth that moves between the classes is ren-dered homogeneous by its value in monetary terms. Yet, in reality, due to the productive-sterile polarity, it is considered essentially heterogene-ous. The justification of a new social hierarchy, with new asymmetries, that no longer demands legitimisation from tradition or from the will of men, but directly from nature, lies in the statement on this original po-larity. The formation of this model went through three phases: Quesnays reflections on the French crisis between 1755 and 1757; a dispute with Mirabeaus aristocratic model between 1757 and 1758; as well as a dis- 1 University of Catania. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
10 pute with Rousseau between 1762 and 1767. The first defines Quesnays anti-mercantilism ; the second reveals his clear refusal of the society of ranks model; the third sees the emergence of an alternative to the democratic model . 2. What is already explicit in Quesnays first articles of economic ar-gument written for the Encyclopédie are the features of a clearly anti-Colbertist approach to the analysis of French society; Fermiers and Grains present the topics, and Impôts and Hommes complete the discussion. France was in an economic, demographic, fiscal and financial crisis, as well as suffering political and military difficulty. This crisis was forecast-ed well before the Seven Years war and manifested itself openly in 1763, with the end of the conflict, by the humiliating defeat of what up until a few years earlier had been the largest European power. Even the French military difficulties stemmed from the economic crisis; Quesnay goes on to say as much against the way in which the historians dealt with the issue 2 . France had lost its sources of wealth and with them went its power. For three quarters of a century, France continued to impoverish itself and the State, which saw its population 3 and revenue decrease. A country that could have dominated all of its opponents, on account of its size, the quality of its land and its inhabitants work, was beaten by a petit pays like England! Something was going wrong in Frances gou-vernement économique ; something stopped it rediscovering the resources that had sustained its power.
2 F. Quesnay in Traité de la Monarchie , p. 175, n. 392: « Les historiens ne sattachent quaux expéditions militaires, quau merveilleux, pour amuser et intéresser leurs lecteurs, comme les temps de guerre amusent les nouvellistes. Ces auteurs ignorent le plan, la conduite, les avantages et les désavantages des gouvernements, les états de prospérité ou de dépérissement des royaumes, les changements dans les murs des nations et les autres objets les plus fondamentaux de lhistoire doù dépendent les événements, les révolutions, et tous les faits, le bonheur, le malheur des peuples Toutes histoires des états se ressemblent, ce ne sont que des narrations de sièges, de batailles, de conquêtes, de cruautés, des portraits des souverains et jamais dhistoires des nations, de létat de leur puissance, de leurs lois, de leurs richesses, de la condition des diverses classes dhabitants, de leurs murs, de leurs dépenses, de leur discipline militaire, de leur police, de leurs usages, de leur industrie, de leur commerce, de leur culture, de leur population, de leur administration, des causes de leurs prospérités, de leurs décadences ». 3 An anticolbertist position based on informations found by Quesnay in Dupré de Saint-Maur, until research by Expilly and Messance demonstrated that this decrease in population did not happen. For details, see G. Longhitano (1993), p. 27, n. 35.