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I'm not so sure about connecting "The Economy" to authoritarianism.  If anything, I'd argue that real authoritariam, like you found in feudal Monarchy, would be predicated upon the outright destruction of anything we would consider an "Economy" today, to be replaced with direct legal (as opposed to indirect economic) subjection of the masses.  Why bother with private enterprises and a political system when you can restrict all wealth to a small circle at the top, who rule over everybody else by legal fiat?  Why allow people outside the narrow circle to generate wealth through any sort of independent economic activity, when you can just rule it illegal and confiscate their holdings, and summarily execute them if they complain?

I'd be more inclined to attribute the earliest inklings of an abstract entity like the economy to be an analogy from daily experiences in pre-modern crafts and trade.  It's not a huge step from saying "business is good," meaning things in your trade are going well for reasons you may not understand and in ways over which you have no real control, to saying "the economy is good," when everyone is sort of doing okay.

In my past life as a grad student in history, this is more or less what I wanted to research.  My contention was that the ability to think of or imagine something like "The Economy" was a product of capitalism itself, and the wide range of separations that were tied up in its birth - the separation of work from family, the separation of work from morality (business ethics from personal ethics), the separation of work from religion (secularization and the domestication of religion).  Later on, you have the separation of personal responsibility from buisness responsibility (limited liability corporations).  Nowadays you have talk of the sepration of business from the state, perhaps the final separation.  

I wanted to look at all these things as part of a whole, to tie it all together in an analysis of the culture of capitalism.  Unfortunately, the topic was too big, too hard, and there was too much reading across too many fields, and not enough real interest to go around.

by Zwackus on Mon Apr 17th, 2006 at 10:09:30 AM EST
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