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Merkantilismus#

Mercantilism, economic theory and practice, economic counterpart to political absolutism in the 17th and 18th centuries; originated in France, in Austria it was closely connected with the process of consolidating the state. The Habsburg territories had to be turned into a uniform national and economic territory (administrative reform 1749, customs territory of Bohemia and Austria without Tirol and its Fore-Lands and without Hungary 1775). The first to view "Austria" in this way was P. W. von Hoernigk ("Oesterreich ueber alles wann es nur will" - " Austria above all, if it only wants") in 1684. The most important proponents of this idea were J. J. Becher ("Politischer Discurs" - "Political Discourse", 1667), Hoernigk and W. von Schroeder ("Fuerstliche Schatz- und Rentkammer" - "Royal Treasure and Pension Chamber", 1686). Because of the work of J. H. G. von Justi ("Staatswirtschaft oder Systematische Abhandlung aller oekonomischen und Cameralwissenschaften" - "National Economy or Systematic Treatise on Economics and Cameralistics, 1758) and J. von Sonnenfels ("Grundsaetze der Polizey ..." - " Principles of the Police ...", 1771) "cameralism" continued to have effect until the 19th century. On the analogy of a sole trader Mercantilism demands that, analogous to an individual enterprise, the income of a national economy be higher than expenditures (favourable trade balances). "Universal Commerce" between the Habsburg territories and active foreign trade were promoted by establishing commerce authorities (Kommerzienkolleg 1665, Haupt-Commercien-Collegium in Vienna 1718, Commerzdirectorium 1746), internal tariffs were lowered or abolished altogether, Trading Companies, Privileged (1st and 2nd Oriental Companies 1667 and 1719) and manufacturing enterprises were granted privileges ("factory privileges" to become exempt from compulsory guild membership and all guild restrictions, mercantile powers), which were often connected with monopolies. State monopolies - apart from the traditional mining privileges, the salt monopoly, the tobacco monopoly (1701/23) and mercury production and trade - were also strengthened, although trade monopolies were often rented. Under Emperor Karl VI and his successors traffic routes were improved: "Commercial roads" formed links to Vienna as a trade centre and to the "sea ports" (1719 free ports of Trieste and Fiume/Rijeka); the Triesterstrasse route across the Semmering mountain (1728) and the karst, as well as the Loiblstrasse route were newly routed, and the Arlbergstrasse route under Joseph II. The planned expansion of waterways failed due to financial difficulties and natural obstacles. Postal connections were also extended; credit institutions were founded, which were primarily to cover state loans (1706, Wiener Stadtbank - Vienna City Bank). Initially only the production of luxury goods (glass and silk) was promoted, later also the production of bulk goods (linen, cotton, wool cloths). Mercantilism favoured low wages on theoretical grounds and aimed at creating an industrious, disciplined society ("industriousness", i.e. "industry", derived from the Latin term "industria") by having large-scale enterprises ("manufactures", usually privileged "factories") putting out tremendous amounts of work to the rural population as well as by making inmates of workhouses, prisons and orphanages do factory work. Major privately or state-owned Manufakturen employed thousands of people, mostly lessees or small tenants, as homeworkers by putting out work (cottage industry); labour-saving machines and new sources of energy were not in use at that time.

Literature#

L. Sommer, Die oesterreichischen Kameralisten in dogmengeschichtlicher Darstellung, 1920 and 1925; H. Matis (ed.), Von der Glueckseligkeit des Staates, 1981; H. Stekl, Oesterr. Zucht- und Arbeitshaeuser 1671-1920, 1978.