Political Economy in the Eighteenth Century: Popular or Despotic? The Physiocrats against the Right to Existence
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Among the important works of Edward Palmer Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century” published in 1971 occupies an especially important place. He severely critiqued the historiography of his era, because it no longer saw the “common people” as agents of history in the periods before the French Revolution, a period constituting the quasi totality of human history ! He emphasized the gap that separated the nuanced work of anthropologists that “allowed us to know all about the delicate tissue of social norms and reciprocities which regulates the life of Trobriand islanders” from the gross reductionism of the historiography that he qualified as “the spasmodic school” for whom the “eighteenth-century English collier who claps his hand spasmodically on to his stomach, and who responds to elementary economic stimuli”.