Skip to main content

Social history and economic development

Carlo Cipolla noted in his Before the Industrial Revolution that social history is an essential component for our understanding of economic progress. He notes that:
"The history of the professions is an essential part of the story of 'intangible' values. Scholarly prestige, restrictive practices through the enforcement of licensing, relatively high personal income—all these factors individually reinforced each other and in combination made possible the social ascent of the professionals."
He suggests that the financial independence of certain professional categories in Europe (lawyers and doctors, for example), when compared with Asia, might explain some of the divergnet paths between the regions. Before, we go down the road of eurocentrism, I want to note the following table from the book.
Cipolla notes that prostitution went hand in hand with the process of economic development. According to him: "in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the two major centers of prostitution in Europe were Venice and Rome, a primacy which, with the Industrial Revolution, was to be taken over by London and Paris." The decline in the number of prostitutes per 1,000 inhabitants in Rome by the late 17th century is part of that decadence.

I would like to see some revisionist research on the proeminence of prostitution in China. Or maybe the West was 'ahead' in this category at least. And yes Vegas is a sign of development!


  1. another pterodox blog that praises argentina's *great* economic policies?


    1. Not all are great, but compared to what we had in the past... what is a pterodox, by the way?

    2. I think it's a reference to the pterodactyl, and thus suggests that heterodox economists are "dinosaurs." It's a bit more creative and amusing than the usual reference to Ptolemy or phlogiston. None of these epithets does much good convincing people to agree with mainstream theory, though.

    3. I don't often deal with the idea of whether ideas are old (and dinosaurs hold them or not). The fact is that people like Wynne Godley, or Dean Baker, using heterodox idea did foresee the 2007-8 crisis, while the mainstream is lost. So this kind of name calling is irrelevant really.

    4. It is sort of strange to attack ideas because of their vintage. One could attack Euclidean geometry or Archimedes' method of volume measurement on similar grounds. There is, sadly, no point talking to people like this, because there is no assurance of good faith (quite the opposite, in fact).

  2. argentina's policies are great when using the magical K deflator.. if you use the boring washington consensus mellon face deflator you get mediocre growth, which combined with very high inflation and now price freezing you get a recipe for disaster.. No wonder brazil is also facing mediocre growth and higher inflation, guido mantega and his pterodox blue caps use argentina as a positive example.

    1. Not really. You should get your data right. Facts are facts. Using Ferreres data, which uses a much higher inflation deflator, average growth between 2003-12, that is, post crisis has been 5.8%. Check the post here


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…