Pufendorf and His Importance for the Development of Economics as a Science

  • Arild SætherEmail author
Part of the The European Heritage in Economics and the Social Sciences book series (EHES, volume 23)


Pufendorf’s natural law comprises ethics, jurisprudence, society and political economy. His political economy embraces theories of human behaviour, private property and the four stages, value and money, foundation of states and council decisions and finally division of state powers and principles of taxation. His political economy was dispersed across Europe and North America.

John Locke was the first to extensively use Pufendorf’s political economy when he developed his own economic theories. The French philosophers of the Enlightenment were all in debt to Pufendorf. The magistrate Pierre De Boisguilbert, the legal and political theorist Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, the editor Denis Diderot, the translator Jean Barbeyrac, the great philosopher Charles-Louis Montesquieu, the foremost political thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Physiocratic model builders used Pufendorf’s works lengthily when they wrote and advanced their own ideas about political economy.

Gershom Carmichael introduced natural law to Scotland when he taught at the University of Glasgow in the early eighteenth century. His successor Francis Hutcheson continued his practice and used Pufendorf’s works when he wrote on political economy.

As Hutcheson’s student Adam Smith became familiar with Pufendorf’s ideas of political economy, he used these ideas extensively when he held his lectures on jurisprudence at University of Glasgow and when he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiment and The Wealth of Nations. Pufendorf’s position in the history of economic thought should therefore be well established.


Pufendorf on political economy Human behaviour Private property Value and price Money and trade Council decisions Principles of taxation 

JEL Codes

B 10, B 13, B 31, B40, D 10, D40, D42, D46, N01, K11, K12, K40 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agder Academy of Sciences and LettersKristiansandNorway

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