From Criticism of Corporations to the Liberation of Production Forces: Jean-Baptiste Say’s Political Economy

By Arnaud Diemer, Blandine Laperche

In Traité d’économie politique and Cours complet d’économie politique, Jean-Baptiste Say develops a critical argumentation with regard to corporations and other industrial regulations. According to Say, these regulations are barriers to entrepreneurial freedom and the progress of the arts. They are almost always tools of both individual and collective oppression, as well as sources of numerous economic, social, and political ills. In this article, we detail Say’s argumentation in opposition to corporations, and show that it is part of a more general framework, that of the influence of institutions on the economy of societies and of machines on commerce. His critical analysis allows for the introduction of his conception of the necessary liberation of productive forces, which assumes the creation of a framework that is favorable to entrepreneurial freedom and the blossoming of productive forces (machines), which are the foundations of his political economy. JEL Codes : A11, B12, B30, K11, N01, P14, P16


  • J.-B. Say
  • corporations
  • regulation
  • liberalization
  • institutions
  • machinery
  • Political Economy
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