Mechanisms of Growth, Crises, and Economic Development in Relation to Human Development in the Economic Literature of the German Empire

Olli Turunen, University of Helsinki

The economists of the German Historical School (GHS) dominated economic research in Germany from the 1850s to the 1940s. There were, however, considerable differences in how the older and younger representatives of the school regarded and discussed intangible and human factors of production. Whereas Wilhelm Roscher was still receptive to the ideas of intellectual and intangible capital, Gustav Schmoller had already in 1863 published an article in which he argued against such ideas (Schmoller 1863). There is an interesting puzzle here in the sense that during the same period in which Germany was becoming an industrial giant and its empire was taking shape, its economists turned away from explaining the impact of knowledge, education, and innovation with the concept of capital. When Carl Menger published an article trying to clarify matters on the subject in 1888, it became apparent that the Austrian economists too had joined in this process of simplifying or at least materializing the concept of capital (Menger1888), steering away from the equivalents of the present day idea of human capital that were common earlier. Therefore, this paper focuses on the question, how did the German economists of the era of Empire (1871-1919) treat the increasingly important roles of education, research, development, as well as broader human development, and their connections to economic development, when the capital framework was not available. A novel digitized database of German, French, and English language economic texts is utilized in analyzing the related trends, connections, and concepts.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 135. Conceptualizing Economic Development