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History of Political Economy 36.2 (2004) 403-405

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Jean-Baptiste Say: Nouveaux regards sur son oeuvre. Edited by Jean-Pierre Potier and André Tiran. Paris: Economica, 2003. 765 pp. €50.00.

The most celebrated French economist before Walras is beginning to receive his proper due. I refer to the ten-volume edition of the Oeuvres complètes de Jean-Baptiste Say in process at the Centre Walras (Lyon). It is in this context that we should place the volume under review, which comprises some thirty papers read at the Colloque International Jean-Baptiste Say held in October 2000 at the Centre Walras.

The volume closes with a "chronologie de la vie et de l'oeuvre" of Say by Emmanuel Blanc. It conveys within twenty-three pages an immense body of information regarding Say's personal affairs and family relationships, his professional career as author, journalist, businessman, and professor, his travels and correspondence, and his publications, including important data on the translations of his major works. My only complaint is the undue reliance on the Mélange et correspondence and the Oeuvres diverses in citing correspondence; for, as Sraffa taught us, some letters to Ricardo there printed differ from the originals actually sent, the modifications designed by Say with publication in mind.

The facts laid out by Blanc help immensely in appreciating the papers, especially those in the section on Say and his contemporaries. Evert Schoorl's "Vers une nouvelle biographie de J.-B. Say" seeks to draw a multidimensional picture of Say as ideologue, entrepreneur, and economist, pointing to the "Adam Smith problem" as a similar case where the reputation of an author has been based on a partial or bifurcated vision. Manuela Albertone treats Say's relations with Thomas Jefferson dating from 1803, with an eye to Jeffersonian ideology, and goes more generally into the broader issue of the international transmission of ideas. Francis Démier places Say in the European context during the extraordinary period of Revolution, Terror, and the rise and fall of Bonaparte and its aftermath, presenting evidence of Say's transition from maintaining a national ideal regarding economic and cultural development in the 1790s to a European ideal after 1814. The intellectual relationship between Say and Etienne Dumont, popularizer, translator, and editor of Bentham, is investigated by Hiroshi Kitami. Richard Whatmore discusses the influence of Etienne Clavière, managing director of a Paris life-insurance company, on Say's articles for La décade in the 1790s and on his Olbie, in which he champions the integration of political economy with republican ethics and explores the ideal income distribution, a perspective shown to be present in the Traité itself. [End Page 403]

In a second section on "richesse, valeur, et controverses," Hitoshi Hashimoto explores Say's position regarding the Wealth of Nations—drawing extensively on the marginalia which Hashimoto himself published in 1980 and 1982—bringing out both general agreement and significant divergences. There is an essay on the Ricardo-Say relation by Christian Gherke and Heinz Kurz on the range of issues that preoccupied them, where we find the often-repeated theme that after Ricardo's death in 1823, the hostility toward Ricardianism became more pronounced. Riccardo Soliani, writing on value and distribution, comes to a similar conclusion—that from 1814 onward Say distances himself from the "surplus" tradition that he enunciated in the Traité of 1803, in favor of the Italo-French ("supply-demand") tradition represented by Galiani and Condillac. And this view—a little qualified—is taken by Potier writing on the evolution of Say's ideas on value and price. In an essay on Say and production theory, Philippe Steiner adds a splendidly helpful "chronologie des relations de Say à Ricardo," and concludes that changes made to the Traité reveal an increasingly hostile attitude toward Ricardo, the ratio of negative to positive references rising from zero in 1817 to 1.15 in 1819 and 2.14 in 1826, a level maintained in the Cours complet at 2.22 (355).

In my view, Say's representations of his...


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