Information Bulletin of the Union of National Economic Associations in Japan No. 9 (1989) pp.33-34.
(Shigeshi WADA; Scanned and corrected by Aiko Ikeo in 1997)
The 52nd National Convention of the Society for the History of the Economic Thought was held at Senshu University in Tokyo on November 5 and 6, 1988. There were presentations of 13 papers which dealt with C. Davenant, J. Anderson, T.R. Malthus, D. Ricardo, J.S. Mill, H.H. Gossen, M. Weber, Y. Fukuzawa and some others. Fukuzawa was one of the famous pioneers who introduced European economic thought to Japan. In addition, we had an extra-lecture, given by Prof. J.G.A. Pocock (Johns Hopkins University), on "The Growth of Politician Economy in eighteenth century Britain." The common theme of the convention was "The Formation of Political Economy - especially with respect to James Steuart." We had three papers and fruitful discussions under the chairmanship of Noboru KOBAYASHI (Daito Bunka University) and Shigeshi WADA (Chuo University).
KOBAYASHI gave some introductory comments on the common theme, suggesting that Steuart's "Principles" and Smith's "Wealth of Nations" should be so regarded as complements each other, and that we should take notice of the theoretical succession from the one to the other. It was his intention to recall Steuart's theory which surely has a great theoretical value in the formation of political economy, and is yet in need of rescue from underestimation, both in Japan and in Europe.
The first paper, read by Ikuo OMORI (Waseda University) was on "The theoretical frame-work of the earliest theory of monetary economy." The basis on which he stands was that Steuart should be regarded as the founder of a system of political economy which was a contrast to that of Adam Smith. He stressed that, in Steuart's theoretical framework, there was a kind of synthesis of both commodity and money analysts. Steuart not only dealt with the economic policies to create the effectual demand, but also analysed its theoretical foundation in the form of price theory. In this sense, OMORI maintained that we could see in Steuart's system the earliest theoretical attempt to unify both the macro economic policy and the micro economic theory. OMORI undertook to show that, other than the critique of Hume's quantity theory of money, the theoretical analysis of the competition, the demand and supply curves, and the equilibrium prices, can be seen to a considerable extent.
The second paper was read by Hiroshi TAKEMOTO on the theme, "The Discovery of the modern society by means of Political Economy." He argued that not only Adam Smith but also James Steuart should be honoured as founders of political economy. He tried to compare Montesquieu, Hume and Steuart. According to TAKEMOTO, Steuart learned Montesquieu's sociological method and compared historically the different social relations in the different ages of human history. In his view, Steuart did not think that the modern system of commodity exchange was the only way to make human beings happy. It accompanied moral corruption on the one hand and intellectual progress on the other. Steuart's "industry" meant a particular kind of alienated labour specific in the modern society, but at the same time, it made possible the splendid refinement of human life. On account of Montesquieu's influence, Steuart's political economy was born as a political system, in which the so-called autonomy of the modern economy could only be maintained by the cooperative activities of the state and the common people. He pointed out that Steuart had not the idea or "natural law," and that he regarded liberty in the modern society as unstable, and capable of being lost in the same way as it was established.
The last paper was given by Nobuyoshi KAWASHIMA (Seinan Gakuin University) under the title of "The modern crisis for James Steuart and the formation old Political Economy." He showed that the controversy between Hume and Wallace on the populations problem whether it had increased or decreased in modern age, in comparison with the ancient times, was understood by Steuart as a kind of the crisis in modern societies. KAWASHIMA maintained that this controversy gave him a strong incentive to inquire how the employment of the people could be enlarged in the various fields of industry, so that "the good of the peopled' could be realized. This was supposed to have been one of his main concerns which led him to establish his system of political economy. KAWASHIMA stressed that Steuart did not wish to follow the English way of modernization, but sought another way via Europe, which was believed to be more appropriate for the historical circumstances of Scotland. He also stressed that Steuart had in his view a shape of society which was entirely composed of small producers and tradesmen. This meant that Steuart did not have any clear concept of capital. So, in his system, there could not be any concept of the original accumulation of capital, as was seen in Marx's system, for this meant the process of the original formation of "capital", which could only be thought of with the concept of "capital".
Let us now turn to the free discussions which followed. Akio HOSHINO (Kanto Gakuin University) asked how Steuart's Political Economy related to modern individualism. He doubted whether it was possible to establish a system or political economy, as a basic part of the modern social science, with such ambiguous attitude as Steuart's to the modern individualism. Kyoji TAZOE (Fukushima University) posed a question that, thought Steuart did not observe the coercive force of capital and the correspondent forcible role of the state in the original accumulation of capital, he, nevertheless, described in detail the facts of the process in which peasants were expelled from the land, and this fact must not be neglected. Daisuke ARIE (Japan College of Social Welfare) raised the question as to the validity of applying the terminology of the modern economics, such as equilibrium price, demand curve or elasticity, directly to Steuart's political economy. Finally Shoji TANAKA (Kanagawa University) argued that political economy as a science could be said to have been established only when the antithesis between civil society and the state was duly recognized. He threw some doubt on the implication involved in the common theme itself that Steuart, like Smith, recognized fully this antithesis. The next national convention 1989 is scheduled to be held at Kyushu University, on November 4 and 5, 1989.
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