Crises and cycles in dictionaries and encyclopedias
1. INTRODUCTION (DANIELE BESOMI)
2. A BRIEF HISTORY OF ECONOMIC DICTIONARIES. AN ESSAY IN BIBLIOGRAPHY (DANIELE BESOMI)
This introductory chapter explains the rationale of dedicating an entire volume to the study of a specific subject—crises and cycles— as discussed in dictionaries and encyclopedia. The first lies in the nature of writings prepared for such reference works, a truly scientific-literary genre with its own specific features, in particular self-containedness, (relative) briefness, monographical and often educational character, and expert authorship, which make these entries of particular interest for historians of thought. Not only individual dictionary entries, some of which written by writers of absolute eminence, are informative on the subject and the views on the subject held at the time of writing, but taken as a whole such corpus of writings reflects the development of the understanding of the subject through almost two centuries of history of economic doctrines.
3. NAMING CRISES. A NOTE ON SEMANTICS AND CHRONOLOGY (DANIELE BESOMI)
This chapter outlines a history of specialized dictionaries in economics and allied disciplines, presenting them grouped by their scope in chronological order. The first dictionaries qualifying themselves as ‘economic’ were in reality concerned with practical arts and agriculture (18th and early 19th century). There followed a number of commercial and financial dictionaries in the 18th century and throughout the 19th century. The former eventually turned, early in the 20th century, into general business dictionaries, while financial dictionaries are still published nowadays. The first dictionary dedicated to political economy was published in 1826, it was followed by a dozen extensive works in the remainder of the century and a myriad of smaller sized works in the 20th century. Meanwhile more general dictionaries dedicated to social sciences also began to be published. In the late 20th century, a number of sectorial and biographical dictionaries also appeared. The chapter finally offers a quantitative survey of the distribution of dictionaries according to scope, size and language.
4. DICTIONARY RECONSTRUCTIONS OF THE HISTORY OF THE THEORIES OF CRISES AND CYCLES. A META-TAXONOMY (DANIELE BESOMI)
This essay examines the main terms used to indicate crises, cycles and related phenomena since the early 18th century. Of each term are examined the etymology, the definitions and the (sometimes drastic) evolution of their usage in time, both in the general literature and in economic dictionaries. The terms are: Glut, Distress, Embarrassment, Stagnation, Panic, Bubble, Depression, Fluctuations, Recession, Crisis and Cycle. The latter two are those most widely used, and are thus discussed in more detail.
5. BETWEEN PROGRESS AND DECLINE: CRISES IN EARLY FRENCH DICTIONARIES AND ENCYCLOPEDIAS (1830–1840) (LUDOVIC FROBERT)
This chapter surveys the classificatory approaches of business cycles and crises theories found in dictionary articles. These are found to belong to a surprisingly small number of types. At first, dictionary writers only cited the theories they wanted to disprove. Then (especially in Germany in the second half of the 19th century), writers were classified according to their acceptance, or rejection, of Say’s law, or depending on their political views. When cycles theories had completely displaced the previous emphasis on crises, the dividing line run through the ‘old’ or ‘new’ approaches (interwar years). Up to the 1950s, emphasis moved onto the classification of the causes of cycles, and a bit later on the formal properties of models. Finally, a more fundamental line of division was sought, considering theories in the context of different economic schools, or again with respect to the acceptance of Say’s law, or on the emphasis on endogenous or exogenous causes, or on the stability of equilibrium.
6. THE ANALYSIS OF CRISES IN EARLY FRENCH DICTIONARIES AND ENCYCLOPEDIAS (DANIELE BESOMI)
This chapter deals with the very first entries on ‘Crisis’ or ‘Crises’ in French encyclopaedias and dictionaries of the 1830s. It is during these years that the first dramatic and regular economic crises arose in the French economy. At the time, the analyses of this phenomenon were strictly associated with a wider reflection on the progress of the new industrial societies. That is why one could not hope to understand the early analyses of crisis without refering to the theme of Progress. In this chapter are presented four different visions of the relationship between crisis and Progress, as they were introduced by the main economic sects of the times: the Liberals, the Republicans, the Saint-Simonians, and the Fourierists.
7. WILHELM ROSCHER’S CRISES THEORY: FROM PRODUCTION CRISES TO SALES CRISES (HARALD HAGEMANN)
This chapter examines the features of the 6 earliest articles on commercial crises published in economic dictionaries and in encyclopedias, 1835–42. It is noted that they offered the very first definitions of ‘crises’ found in the literature, although the conception was still rather trivial, as most of them saw crises as a disruption of the course of business. They admitted, however, endogenous as well as exogenous causes, but only some of them recognized some systematic character in their occurrence, and only one of these writers (Lemonnier) understood that they are a necessary consequence of technological advances and are therefore the price to pay for economic progress.
8. CHARLES COQUELIN: BANKING MONOPOLY AND COMMERCIAL CRISES (DANIELE BESOMI)
In his early essay on production crises, which he later replaced by the term sales crises to characterize the essence of the disease, namely a lack of effective demand, Roscher made a very important argument. The consequence of the role of money as a store of value is the separation of the act of purchase and the act of sale. Although it had been the young John Stuart Mill, who first made this argument which is in the centre of all later critique of Say’s law, as for example in Marx and Keynes, Roscher put much more emphasis on that characteristic element of a monetary economy than the later Mill in his Principles. This makes Roscher’s essay a lasting contribution in the history of crises theories.
9. COMMERCIAL CRISIS AND CREDIT IN THE FIRST SPANISH GENERAL ENCYCLOPAEDIA (1851–1855) (JESUS ASTIGARRAGA & JUAN ZABALZA)
This chapter examines Charles Coquelin’s contribution to the theory of crises in his own and Guillemin’s Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852). The constantly operating cause he identified lies in the monopoly of the bank of issue. This causes a cumulation of tension within the system, as commercial banks deposit with the central bank the capitals they find difficult to place at remunerative rates thereby permitting the bank of issue to continuously expand its discounts, until the situation becomes too fragile to be sustained. Coquelin’s contribution is appreciated especially in terms of his epistemic reflections on the necessity of singling out a common cause that explains all the crises, laying the foundations for formulating a general law of crises.
10. EXPECTATIONS AND CRISES IN AUGUSTE OTT’S DICTIONNAIRE DES SCIENCES POLITIQUES ET SOCIALES (1854) (DANIELE BESOMI)
The entries ‘Crédito’ and ‘Crisis comercial’ in the Enciclopedia moderna, the first Spanish general encyclopaedia, were drafted by J. J. Mora in the early 1850s. A large part of both entries was taken from a French mid-19th century commercial dictionary. Apart from the obvious aim of providing with information about the phenomena of commercial crisis and credit, Mora, who was a committed defender of free-trade, intended to place the analysis of commercial crisis and credit within the context of the debate on economic freedom and free trade that took place in Spain in the mid–19th century.
11. GEROLAMO BOCCARDO ON INTERNALLY GENERATED COMMERCIAL CRISES (1857) (DANIELE BESOMI)
In his Dictionnaire des sciences politiques et sociales (1854), Auguste Ott (an otherwise obscure systematizer of Philippe Buchez’s theory of social economic) contributed one of the few French criticisms of Say’s law, and formulated a theory of crises based on the systematic disappointment of expectations. These are formed on the grounds of limited information as to the the state of demand and supply, and are driven by the movement of prices. High prices are taken by entrepreneurs to indicate thriving demand, which indices them to increase production without realizing that other entrepreneurs are doing the same, thus causing an excess of production. Such emphasis on expectations was sixty years ahead of the modern treatment of this subject by the Swedes in the interwar years.
12. CLÉMENT JUGLAR 1863/1891: TRACKING AND INTERPRETING THE PERIODIC RETURN OF CRISES (CÉCILE DANGEL-HAGNAUER)
Although Gerolamo Boccardo did not contribute an original theory of crises in his own Dizionario della economia politica (1857)—he relied, in fact, on the one formulated a few years earlied by Charles Coquelin— he introduced some interesting innovations. In particular, he examined the relationships between different kinds of crises (commercial, agricultural and industrial), and discussed the exogenous and endogenous character of crises not only in terms of their causes, but in terms of the possibility of theorizing them.
Although the ‘Juglar cycle’ is familiar to many people, even in the general public, Juglar’s actual contribution to the emergence of the theory of business cycles has been, to a large extent, ignored. His conception must indeed be dug out from the jumble of statistics and historical considerations contained in the two editions of his major work, Des crises commerciales et de leur retour périodique en France, en Angleterre et aux Etats-Unis. In contrast, the two entries examined here, published very shortly (in 1863 and 1891) after the publication of the two editions of the book (1862 and 1889), are concise and to the point. They also reflect the evolution of Juglar’s approach to the phenomenon of crises and their periodic return.
13. HENRY D. MACLEOD’S DICTIONARY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY: BRITAIN’S FIRST ABORTED ATTEMPT (CÉCILE DANGEL-HAGNAUER)
14. ADOLF WAGNER: ECONOMIC CRISES, CAPITALISM AND HUMAN NATURE (VITANTONIO GIOIA)
A controversial figure in the history of economics, Macleod is considered today as having made interesting contributions to the theory of money, credit, banking and finance. He is also the first Briton to have tried to publish a Dictionary of political economy. His attempt ended however in failure, as he never managed to go beyond the first volume, which contains nevertheless an entry on commercial crises. This entry provides an historical account of the crises that affected England in the century that preceded the publication of the Dictionary. It shows that Macleod had a good understanding of the role played by the central bank as lender of last resort, although the notion does not stand at the centre of his argument.
15. EMILE DE LAVELEYE. ECONOMIC CRISES, CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIALISM (LUDOVIC FROBERT)
This chapter focuses on Wagner’s contribution to the theory of economic crises. In the entry Krisen of the Handwőrterbuch der Volkswirthschaftslehre (1866), Wagner rejects Roscher’s approach to this subject in order to reestablish the explicative meaning of Say’s law. According to Wagner, the causes of crises have to be looked for not in an alleged pathology or “structural defect” of the economic system, but in the consequences of human behaviour that turn the economic opportunities provided by the free-market into risky activities sustained by over-speculative attitudes.
16. CRISES AND RELATED ENTRIES IN PALGRAVE’S DICTIONARY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, 1894-99 (PASCAL BRIDEL)
The aim of this chapter is to present Émile de Laveleye’s entry on commercial crisis published in La Grande Encyclopédie around 1890. Laveleye’s intuitions have to be analysed in the light of his whole intellectual project. It is particularly important to point out the link between his reflections on crises and, on the one hand, his Christian ethos, and on another hand, his involvement in Socialist movements. The chapter begins with a survey of Laveleye’s intellectual sources. Then his more general thesis is analysed, as presented in other essays, notably Primitive Property. Finally, their impact on his conception of commercial crisis is examined.
This chapter examines the four entries devoted to crisis, periodicity of crises, commercial and financial crises and over production published between 1894 and 1899 in the three-volume ‘old’ Palgrave Dictionary of Political Economy. Mainly descriptive and historical in nature, these entries do not seem curiously to give an appropriate account of the complexity and richness of trade cycle theory in England at the time. Even if Jevons’s solar spot theory and Mills ‘credit cycle’ are looming large, no theoretical use of these attempts at finding an endogenous explanation of the periodicity/regularity of cycles are properly reported in any of these entries. These entries seem in fact to display the dominant approach as to the unimportance of crises and hence of a proper theory of crisis ‘which is not of great permanent importance’. As ‘spasmodic symptoms and not symptoms of any serious and continuous diseases’, crises should not be brought ‘under some legislative remedy’. Moreover, the logical impossibility of over production adds to the idea that a systematic theoretical explanation of crises in terms of regular and recurrent cycles is not possible, indeed necessary: ‘events so exceptional defy regulation’ and hence theoretical explanations.
17. FROM CRISES TO CYCLES: TUGAN-BARANOVSKY AND THE BROCKHAUS-EFRON (1895–1915) (FRANÇOIS ALLISSON)
18. HEINRICH HERKNER: INEQUALITY OF INCOME DISTRIBUTION, OVERCAPITALISATION AND UNDERCONSUMPTION (HARALD HAGEMANN)
This chapter examines Tugan-Baranovsky's entries on economic crises in the successive editions of Brockhaus-Efron, the landmark encyclopedic dictionary in Tsarist Russia. These entries were published in 1895 and 1915, one year after the first Russian edition of his masterpiece, /Industrial crises in England/ (1894), and one year after its third Russian edition (1914). The evolution of these entries, together with the specific nature of encyclopedic writing (brevity, objectivity), allow to study the development of Tugan-Baranovsky's thought on economic fluctuations. This comparative analysis clearly shows a profound terminological shift from crises to cycles: crises are no longer just periodic accidents, but a normal phase of any capitalist economy.
19. WILHELM LEXIS: CRISES AND OVERPRODUCTION (HARALD HAGEMANN)
In his essay on crises in Conrad’s Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften (1892–1910), Heinrich Herkner, who succeeded Gustav Schmoller on his chair at the University of Berlin as well as in the role of chairman of the Verein für Sozialpolitik, gave a meritorious summary of the different explanations of crises. In his own interpretation Herkner favours theoretical approaches, as those given by Sismondi and Lexis, which put emphasis on the negative consequences of a great inequality of income distribution leading to overcapitalisation and underconsumption. For Herkner an appropriate therapy of the crises problem therefore is strongly linked to the solving of the ‘labour question’ by raising the capability of the masses to consume.
20. ARTHUR SPIETHOFF: FROM ECONOMIC CRISES TO BUSINESS CYCLE THEORY (VITANTONIO GIOIA)
Wilhelm Lexis, a demographer and outstanding mathematical statistician who is still remembered for the Lexis diagram and his dispersion theory, wrote many articles on consumption, crises and overproduction. For Lexis the relation between production and consumption in the economy is a decisive issue. In contrast to the optimistic views of Say, Ricardo and Mill, Lexis held the view that a general overproduction can arise temporarily in a capitalist economy. He identifies the crisis as the turning point in which the excesses of the former boom are corrected. In his explanation of general overproduction Lexis points out that excess supply on some goods markets reduces labour demand which then lowers the purchasing power of workers and thereby indirectly enhances excess supply of consumption goods. Lexis thus discusses spillover and feedback effects which indicates that the had a general equilibrium system in mind.
21. KOYNUS’S ‘ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE’ IN THE GRANAT ENCYCLOPEDIA (VINCENT BARNETT)
The chapter examines the role of the Krisen entry by Spiethoff (Handwőrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften) in the making and the diffusion of the theory of business cycles. Spiethoff’s statement that “cyclical upswings and downswing are the evolutionary forms of a highly developed capitalist system” defines his field of inquiry. His analysis, endowed with an innovative methodological approach, is devoted to a radical critique both against orthodox theory, rooted in Say’s law, and against authors such as Malthus, Sismondi, Lauderdale, etc., who consider the economic crises as symptoms of the pathology of capitalism. His peculiar reflection on the role of overproduction provides a rich explanation of the antithetic stimuli characterizing capitalistic dynamics.
22. W.C. MITCHELL, A. BURNS AND T. HAAVELMO ON BUSINESS CYCLES: THE TWO ENCYCLOPAEDIAS OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES (1930-1935 AND 1968) (FRANCESCO ASSO AND LUCA FIORITO)
This chapter discusses the entry on ‘Economic Conjuncture’ by A.A. Konyus in the Russian/Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Granat Bibliographical Institute, published in fifty-eight volumes between 1910 and 1948. It summarises the basic approach of the entry as empirically and statistically orientated, being concerned with describing the observable features of business cycles, in direct comparison with similar work undertaken by Wesley Mitchell. It then outlines the use made in the entry of work by both Russian and Western economists. Konyus’s long career from the 1910s to the 1980s is also considered.
23. TINBERGEN ON DYNAMICS AND CONJUNCTURE IN STRIDIRON’S BEDRIJFSECONOMISCHE ENCYCLOPEDIE (PETER RODENBURG)
This chapter discusses the entries on business cycles contained in the Encyclopaedia of the social sciences (ESS) and the International encyclopaedia of the social sciences (IESS). The ESS and the IESS were published, respectively, in 1930-35 and in 1968 and their treatment of business fluctuations presents both relevant elements of continuity and discontinuity. The major element of continuity is represented by the main entries on business cycles authored by Wesley Clair Mitchell for the ESS and Arthur Burns for the IESS. Both authors were affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research and their presentations of business cycles can be seen as two different steps in the development of the so called NBER method. The major element of discontinuity is the inclusion, by the IESS, of a specific entry on “Mathematical models of business cycles” authored by Trygve Haavelmo. Differently from the more “empirical” discussion proposed by Burns, Haavelmo deals with cycles from a strictly analytical point of view, distinguishing between those models which treat the cycle as a consequence of endogenous (closed models) or exogenous disturbances (open models). Moreover, Haavelmo considers the possibility that cyclical behavior may be produced because “the driving force is itself cyclical” (“forced oscillation”) or because “of the particular ways in which the economic system responds to the stimulating forces” (“free oscillations”). The chapter also offers some general presentation of the main features of the two editorial enterprises which hosted these original contributions on cycles.
24. NIKOLAI KONDRATIEV AND LONG WAVES IN RECENT DICTIONARIES AND ENCYCLOPAEDIAS (FRANCISCO LOUÇÃ)
This chapter investigates the way business cycle theory was presented to a bigger audience of non-technical practitioners and businessmen, in economic dictionaries in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands thinking about business cycles was obviously dominated by Jan Tinbergen, as he was by far the greatest authority in this field. The chapter will therefore focus on Jan Tinbergen’s contributions to the Bedrijfseconomische encyclopedie of 1947. The chapter argues that, though the Bedrijfseconomische encyclopedie was perhaps less influential as one might expect on the basis of its considerable seize and big names, it clearly exemplified and popularized Tinbergen’s view on business cycles, even though they were contested in small circles in the Netherlands, most notably by Jan Goudriaan.
25. POLITICAL BUSINESS CYCLES (JAN-PETER OLTERS)
This chapter summarizes the three stages in the debate on the long waves of capitalist development. Firstly, the debate on business cycles was introduced by Clément Juglar, and almost immediately by a number of statisticians who claimed to have detected longer cycles: Aftalion, Lescure, Parvus, De Wolff, Van Gelderen and Kondratiev, whose works created a new research programme. The second stage was dominated by Schumpeter?s efforts to disseminate the notion of long waves, although others followed him, namely the founders of econometrics, such as Frisch and Tinbergen, or discussed the statistical evidence, as Mitchell and Kuznets. Finally, the modern debates are surveyed as they are evoked in different dictionaries, including the contributions of Solomou, Mensch, Mandel, Reijnders, Tylecote, Freeman and others.
26. NONLINEAR BUSINESS CYCLES IN RECENT DICTIONARIES (GIORGIO COLACCHIO)
In surveying the exceptionally extensive and conceptually heterogeneous literature on political business cycles (PBCs), encyclopaedic entries have quite consistently referred to the (presumed) inflationary bias of democratic systems. Internalising voters’ responsiveness to the (expected) state of the economy and designing economic policies on that premise, policymakers are presumed to add elements of instability to the market. While mainstream economics has largely ignored these strategic manipulations of the economy—clearly sub-optimal from a social-welfare perspective—, PBC contributions succeeded in deriving policy recommendations aimed at depoliticising economic (monetary) policy, thus influencing critically the design of economic reforms in recent decades.
This chapter surveys the entries dedicated to nonlinear business cycles in both specialised and non specialised dictionaries. In their chronological succession, they reflect the theoretical change that was taking place in the field of economic dynamics: the transition from the study of nonlinear cycles to that of complex dynamics. While in the earliest entries (early 1970s to mid 1980s) the main stress fell on more or less regular cycles, in the latest ones (particularly since the early 1990s) the scene is almost completely dominated by the new issues and techniques involved in the study of nonlinear dynamical systems, and by the problematic relationship between theoretical outcomes and actual time-series data.
27. REAL BUSINESS CYCLES IN RECENT DICTIONARIES (MARC PILKINGTON)
The dictionary entries we set out to analyse in this chapter espouse the definitional aspects and the stylized facts related to real business cycles in the academic literature. We also investigate how these entries describe the very nature of the shocks under scrutiny. It is a well-accepted fact that real business cycle theory performs the conceptual integration of growth and economic fluctuations by renewing the methodology of empirical macroeconomic research, notably through the calibration method. Dictionary entries have accounted for this evolving research methodology in various and sometimes surprising ways. Our select entries shed light on a range of concerns that are necessary to understand the ramifications, the objectives, the methodology and the modern advances in RBC theory. Some of them can even serve as a stepping stone for a renewed framework assessment insofar as they contain implicit critical views as well as a blueprint for further theoretical perspectives of development.
28. BACK TO CRISES. POST-WAR DICTIONARIES AND THE RESILIENCE OF AN OLD CATEGORY (DANIELE BESOMI AND GIORGIO COLACCHIO)
29. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SPECIALISED DICTIONARIES OF ECONOMICS AND RELATED SUBJECTS (ALSO INCLUDING THE GENERAL ENCYCLOPEDIAS CITED IN THE TEXT) (DANIELE BESOMI)
Although the notion of ‘crisis’ was first subsumed under the idea of ‘cycle’ and eventually expurgated from economic terminology, the term continues to exist and occasionally makes it to economic dictionaries. This chapter surveys its usage in post-war dictionaries, beginning from some linguistic and national peculiarities—in particular, the term ‘crises’ is practically interchangeable with ‘cycles’ in French language, while in German crises is used to indicate the Marxist approach as opposed to bourgeois analysis. As to the interpretation of the concept, some writers interpret crises as a pathological deviations from ‘normal’ fluctuations, while some historical and political dictionaries associate crises to qualitative or systemic changes. In economic dictionaries, the entries trying to qualify crises as autonomous from the idea of cycle are extremely rare: we have found only two, one stressing the different logical nature of these concepts, the other emphasizing that crises cannot be encompassed by calculable mechanistic models. We conclude with some reflections on the complex relationship between crises and cycles.
This chapter offers a general bibliography of dictionaries of economics and related subjects, in so far as they contain a significant portion of economic entries, organized by compilers and by title, reporting all the relevant bibliographic data and retracing the editorial history. This bibliography was compiled by systematically searching library catalogues in the main European languages, with the aid of the secondary literature and existing bibliographies on specialized dictionaries. It contains over 660 titles for a total of more than 1100 editions.