The Western literature on the history of Chinese economic thought is sparse, and comparisons with the history of Western economic thought even more so. This pioneering book brings together Western and Chinese scholars to reflect on the historical evolution of economic thought in Europe and China.

The international panel of contributors cover key topics such as currency, usury, land tenure, the granary system, welfare, and government, and special attention is given to monetary institutions and policies. The problem of "good government" emerges as the unifying thread of a complex analysis that includes both theoretical issues and applied economics. Chinese lines of evolution include the problem of the agency of the State, its ideological justification, the financing of public expenditure, the role played by the public administration, and the provision of credit. The early radical condemnation of usury in the Near East and in the West gives way to theoretical justifications of interest-taking in early capitalist Europe; they, in turn, lead to advances in mathematics and business administration and represent one of the origins of modern economic theory. Other uniting themes include the relationship between metallic and paper money in Chinese and European experiences and the cross-fertilization of economic practices and ideas in the course of their pluri-millennial interactions. Differences emerge; the approach to the organization of economic life was, and still is, more State-centred in China. The editors bring together these analytical threads in a final chapter, opening wider horizons for this new line of comparative economic research which is important for the understanding of modern ideological turns.

This volume provides valuable reading for scholars in the history of economic thought, economic history and Chinese studies.

part I|87 pages

Chinese lines of evolution

section Section 1|44 pages

The agency of the state

chapter 3|14 pages

The cost of security

Financing Yellow River hydraulics during the late imperial period

part Section 2|41 pages

Land, interest and usury

part II|95 pages

European lines of evolution

part Section 1|52 pages

From rationalisations of usury to deductive theories of interest

chapter 7|13 pages

Theorising interest

How did it all begin? Some landmarks in the prohibition of usury in Scholastic economic thought

chapter 8|13 pages

Merchants and the new Catholic view on the economy

Florence and Augsburg between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries

chapter 9|14 pages

From Kaspar Klock's “De aerario” (1651) and Leibniz's “Meditatio de interusurio simplice” to Florencourt's “Abhandlungen aus der juristischen und der politischen Rechenkunst” (1781)

How calculus led from the logic of a device for circumventing the prohibition of usury to a modern theory of depreciation

chapter 10|10 pages

Interest on money, own rate of interest, the natural interest rate and the rate of profits

A short history of concepts ultimately emerging from the usury debate

part Section 2|41 pages

The spread of monetary relations and the transition from poor relief to the welfare state

part III|90 pages

Contact, comparison and interaction

part Section 1|43 pages

Before the revolutions

part IV|28 pages

Conclusions and perspectives