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THE FORMATION OF A “SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM” IN UPPER GERMANY: LEONHARD FRONSPERGER’S “ON THE PRAISE OF SELF-INTEREST”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2021

Rainer Klump*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.
Lars Pilz*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.
*Corresponding

Abstract

In 1564, Leonhard Fronsperger, a military expert and citizen of the Free Imperial City of Ulm in Upper Germany, publishes the booklet “On the Praise of Self-Interest” (“Von dem Lob deß Eigen Nutzen”). Using the form of a satirical poem, he demonstrates how the individual pursuit of self-interest can lead to the common good. Writing long before Bernard Mandeville and Adam Smith, Fronsperger presents a thorough analysis of all kinds of self-interested social, political, and economic relations. His praise of self-interest demonstrates how, over the sixteenth century, the interplay of economic success (in particular in major trading cities), a more realistic conception of human behavior, and some aspects of humanism and the Reformation led to a new understanding of the origins of economic dynamics. This becomes the basis for what Max Weber ([1904–05] 2009) would later term “the spirit of capitalism.”

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The History of Economics Society, 2021

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Footnotes

The authors would like to thank Mareike Schulze for excellent research support. Research funding by the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” (EXC 243) is gratefully acknowledged.

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THE FORMATION OF A “SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM” IN UPPER GERMANY: LEONHARD FRONSPERGER’S “ON THE PRAISE OF SELF-INTEREST”
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