'MINIMALIST CONCEPTION OF THE STATE' PROPOUNDED BY AN IMPORANT INFLUENCE ON MARX (1820)

HODGSKIN, Thomas

Travels in the North of Germany, describing the Present State of the Social and Political Institutions, the Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce, Education, Arts and Manners in that Country, particularly in the Kingdom of Hanover.

Published: London: Printed for Archibald Canstable and Co.

Date: 1820

first edition 2 vols. tall 8vo. xxvi, 496; (iii)-x, 518pp., original boards with blue paper sides and grey paper spines, printed paper labels on spines, edges untrimmed, most of the top 5 cms. chipped from head of the spine of vol.1 as well as a small piece at the foot of the spine of vol.2, labels toned and slightly chipped, joints rubbed, endpapers slightly foxed, else a very good and internally fresh copy. An excellent copy in its original state.

Note
Hodgskin (1787–1869), English economist, political theorist, and journalist, after about twelve years period in the British navy was in 1812 put on the retired list and, reduced to half-pay. "In his first published work, An Essay on Naval Discipline (1813), he contrasted the arbitrary brutality of naval life with the good government with which Britain was reputedly blessed. Publication of the Essay brought Hodgskin to the attention of the London radicals, notably Francis Place, who was to offer Hodgskin intellectual companionship and patronage. In July 1815 Hodgskin embarked on a walking tour which took him first to Paris and later to Germany, where he made a detailed study of the political and economic institutions of Hanover. Although his investigations were shaped by a questionnaire devised by Jeremy Bentham, his suggestion, in Travels in the North of Germany (2 vols., 1820), that ‘many evils are in Germany, occasioned by governing too much’ was far from Benthamite. Hodgskin expounded a minimalist conception of the state, insisting that government tended to shackle the energies and liberties of individuals. The guarantor of good government was the influence of public opinion. He concluded that if Britain was better governed than the states of Germany this was principally because of the greater freedom of expression in Britain and because the political education of the working classes had progressed further in Britain than in Germany" [O.D.N.B.] His views became increasing radical and when in 1822 "Place secured him a position as a correspondent for the Morning Chronicle .. respectable journalism gave [him] a regular income, but no outlet for his real opinions. In 1823 he was instrumental in establishing the Mechanics' Magazine and the mechanics' institute, where in 1825 he delivered a course of lectures later published as Popular Political Economy (1827). His reputation as an economist rests on these lectures, the trenchant Labour Defended Against the Claims of Capital (1825), and The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832). He has frequently been described as a ‘Ricardian socialist’, but the description is more ironic than accurate. Certainly Hodgskin used elements from Ricardian economics, but only as tools with which to undermine the Ricardian edifice. At the same time he pressed the labour theory of value to far more radical ends than David Ricardo, seeing skilled labour as both the measure and producer of all value. Fixed capital was no more than accumulated labour. Hodgskin saw a shameless deception at the centre of Ricardian economics and British capitalism: both pretended that capital was productive and the essential spring to greater prosperity, but, Hodgskin argued, capitalists were always parasitic, holding wages close to subsistence levels and diverting the fruits of labour's productivity to unproductive and anti-social consumption. Although Karl Marx's formulation of the theory of surplus value was more sophisticated, his debt to Hodgskin is unmistakable" [O.D.N.B.]

£1400

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