Death and Afterlife

Ted McCormick

in William Petty

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199547890
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720529 | DOI:
Death and Afterlife

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This chapter traces the transformation of political arithmetic after Petty's death from the art of government by social engineering he elaborated to the more anodyne mode of quantitative, analytical reasoning encountered in standard histories of social science. Focusing especially on the work of Gregory King and Charles Davenant — who redefined political arithmetic as ‘an art of reasoning’, acknowledging Petty's creative role but disavowing his political purposes — it argues that only after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 transformed the political landscape of the Three Kingdoms did political arithmetic come to be understood chiefly as a methodological advance rather than a policy program. Yet while these writers now based political arithmetic's value on its putative analytical objectivity, political neutrality, and statistical precision, they remained implicitly committed, as agents of a growing state bureaucracy, to managing and manipulating populations across an expanding empire.

Keywords: Charles Davenant; Gregory King; political arithmetic; bureaucracy; state; statistics; empire; population

Chapter.  8102 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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