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Astérion, n°20/2019

Les dissonances du doux commerce

Edited by Arnault Skornicki, Eva Debray

Astérion. Philosophie, histoire des idées, pensée politique

The discordances of the doux commerce

In a famous little book, Albert O. Hirschman traces the formation of the commonplace that opposed trade and violence during the early modern period. According to Hirschman, the doux commerce thesis appeared during the 18th century to give political argument for profit-oriented trading activities. In its standard version, known as "Montesquieu-Steuart vision", the doux commerce thesis has justified the free development of private acquisitive pursuits by attributing peaceful virtues to them. Hirschman also shortly evokes “discordant” versions of the doux commerce: this interdisciplinary issue proposes to explore these ones more specifically, in order to test the plasticity of this liberal commonplace. Concerning merchants, economists, experts and philosophers alike, this theme has given rise to various variants and argumentative strategies in multiple theoretical and political contexts, from the emergence of the commercial society during the Early modern period, the industrial revolution until the advent of neoliberal capitalism in the 20th century. From mercantilists to the rhetoric of the European Union, including Rousseau, the Scottish Enlightenment, the industrialists of the Restoration and the Hayekian re-reading of the doux commerce, these papers show over a long period of time the plurality of uses of this commonplace.