chapter  4
28 Pages

Economic textbooks in the German language area


His attempt to write a modern textbook was so successful that his Lehrbuch der politischen Oekonomie, originally published in three volumes between 1826 and 1837, became a ‘bestseller’ with five editions until 1865, and the first volume went through three more until 1868. In one important respect Rau’s book surely was the most influential one in the nineteenth century. His tripartite division of economics into economic theory (Volkswirthschaftslehre), economic policy (Volkswirthschaftspflege) and public finance (Finanzwissenschaft) became the established tradition in the teaching of economics at German universities until the end of the twentieth century. Beginning with Rau, most German authors have named their treatises books on Volkswirtschaftslehre. In some sense Rau’s tripartite division of economics can be considered as a renewal of the classification of older cameralists into economics, Polizei­ and Finanzwissenschaft. However, with the new liberal content and a greater emphasis on economic theory in Volume I, Rau’s Principles soon became the standard textbook. Volume I focused on the nature and origin of income and wealth. It was first published in 1826, with seven further editions during Rau’s lifetime in 1833, 1837, 1841, 1847, 1855, 1863 and the eighth edition in 1868 which was split up into two volumes. The ninth edition which was published in 1876, posthumously, was newly adapted by Adolph Wagner (1835-1917) and Erwin Nasse, who had been the long-time chairman of the Verein für Sozialpolitik from 1874-90 (Hagemann 2001). Rau’s Principles have been translated into eight European languages including French and Italian. When Wagner as a then leading German economist was invited to review Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890) for the Quarterly Journal of Economics, he not only distanced himself from the narrow opinions of members of the younger historical school, in particular Schmoller, and their condemnation of the British classics especially Ricardo, but also still took Rau’s Principles as a role model twenty years after the author’s death:

Not ‘practical’ political economy alone, such as the younger German historical school is disposed to content itself with, nor theoretic political economy alone, such as is usually offered in England, but the two together form political economy as a science. This mode of treating the subject, which has been common in Germany since the days of Rau, deserves more general imitation in foreign countries.