Guilds and Innovation

22 December 2008 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

Most economic and management historians see the guild system as partly responsible for the stagnation of the medieval European economy. A new book, Guilds, Innovation and the European Economy, 1400-1800 (S. R. Epstein and Maarten Prak, eds., Cambridge, 2008) offers a revisionist view, challenging the stereotype of guilds as “moribund rent-seekers whose habitual reaction to technical innovation was resistance and rejection.” The reality is more complex, says reviewer Christine MacLeod:

What emerges from this exceptionally coherent volume is not only the complexity of this institution, whose history spans more than half a millennium and a myriad of particular trades and local circumstances, but also the persistent tensions to which it was subjected, both internally from individualistic and capitalist challenges to its collective ethos and externally from the exigencies of nation states. Moreover, it adds another spur to the demanding search for innovation in the workshop and on the construction site, rather than in the too easily accessed and counted records of the patent office.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Innovation, Institutions, Theory of the Firm.

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