The politics of historical economics: Wilhelm Roscher on democracy, socialism and Caesarism

McDaniel, Iain (2018) The politics of historical economics: Wilhelm Roscher on democracy, socialism and Caesarism. Modern Intellectual History, 15 (1). pp. 93-122. ISSN 1479-2443

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Wilhelm Friedrich Georg Roscher (1817-94) is generally remembered as a significant nineteenth-century German political economist and a contributor to the “German Historical School of Economics.” His work is usually placed in the context of a larger narrative about the development of economic thought. Yet intellectual historians have rarely noticed that, for Roscher, Staatswirthschaft or Nationalökonomie were subordinate to a larger science of politics, and few have engaged with the substance of his political thought, as opposed to his political economy. The aim of this article is to provide an interpretation of Roscher as a political thinker, exploring his concern that nineteenth-century Europe’s economically-advanced societies, characterised by an unstable combination of democratic sovereignty, deep socio-economic inequality, and a centralised state apparatus, would soon find themselves at the mercy of “military tyranny” or “Caesarism.” It underlines the ways in which Roscher’s preoccupation with ancient history fed into his estimation of nineteenth-century politics, and also examines his comparative assessment of democracy’s prospects in Britain, France, and the United States. The argument has some wider implications for the nineteenth-century reception of classical thought and historiography, for the shifting preoccupations of German liberalism between Vormärz and the Kaiserreich, and for wider nineteenth-century assessments of the future of democracy.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Wilhelm Roscher Caesarism democracy socialism historical economics German Historical School nineteenth century political thought political economy
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Depositing User: Iain McDaniel
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2016 08:50
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2021 11:45

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