Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Fallibility of a Word

Mark” at Larvatus Prodeo writes HERE of “Rebranding Capitalism” to which I posted a comment:

The word ‘capitalism’ was first used in English by William Makepeace Thackeray in 1854 in his novel, The Newcomes, chapter XLIII.

He was talking about the business, mainly financial, affairs of some of his characters. He also used the word “capitalist” several times, though this word was first used in English in the 1790s (in French, capitaliste, was used earlier in the 1760s – I am writing from memory just here).

The word ‘capitalism’ was not used by Adam Smith (he died in 1790), nor by Ricardo (1817), Malthus, Mill (1849), nor, interestingly, by Marx.

Adam Smith referred to his ‘4th Age of Man’ as commerce, the earlier three being “1st, the Age of Hunters; 2dly, the Age of Shepherds; 3dly, the Age of Agriculture” (A. Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, p 14, [1762-63] 1978).



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