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From oeconomy to `the economy': population and self-interest in discourses on government

Firth, A. (1998) From oeconomy to `the economy': population and self-interest in discourses on government. History of the Human Sciences, 11 (3). pp. 19-35.


The emergence of population as an object of government in the 18th century produced a new problematic of government. The focus of this new problematic was how to ensure that the pursuit of self-interest by individual economic actors was compatible with the reproduction and useful employment of the population. From the 18th century to the present, government in the West has addressed this problem in a number of different ways, each of which represents a 'tricky adjust ment' between a liberal element concerned with commercial freedom and a pastoral element concerned with the welfare of the population. The tension between the liberal and pastoral elements of modern Western governance is explored by examining the place of commercial freedom within a householding concept of rule in which security at the level of the state is dependent upon the sovereign's rational management of the population.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
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