Massimo M. Augello and Marco E.L. Guidi*
In the mid-nineteenth century Italian economists, following the path trodden by their English and French colleagues a few years earlier, began to feel the need to establish associations that would act as a forum for economic debates. These associations of economists were designed to act as an important tool for the spread of economics beyond the confines of the learned world. Contributions to this mission came not only from economists but also from a variety of social, professional and political figures. Thus in a historical perspective these associations also expressed an attempt to create a setting favourable to exchange of ideas and interaction with those in charge of the political and administrative affairs of the country.
This chapter seeks to analyse the history of such associations in the second half of the nineteenth century. After a brief examination of the historical antecedents, the subsequent sections will reconstruct the sequence of events that led to the establishment of the first associations of Italian economists and the main stages of their development, also investigating the causes that eventually resulted in the abandonment of these projects. Particular emphasis will be placed on exploring their organisational structure and inquiring into the relations between economists and politicians that arose within the associations. Finally, we will study the impulse given by these societies to the study of economics and their role in the process of professionalisation of economists.
Political Economy Societies did not represent the first instance of associations created by Italian economists with the aim of furthering economic debate and stimulating interest in economic issues. The genesis of such ventures can be found in the Enlightenment, which was also an epoch of intense theoretical elaboration in the field of political economy (Bianchini 1989, 1994). The protagonists of the Italian cultural renewal played a major role in promoting academies and cultural clubs which hosted lively debate on the great economic works of the century. One need only cite two celebrated cases: the Accademia dei Pugni (literally: ‘fists’) of Milan and the
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Publication information: Book title: The Spread of Political Economy and the Professionalisation of Economists:Economic Societies in Europe, America and Japan in the Nineteenth Century. Contributors: Massimo M. Augello - Editor, Marco E. L. Guidi - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 70.
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