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The Stakes of Regulation

The Stakes of Regulation

Perspectives on 'Bread, Politics and Political Economy' Forty Years Later

By Steven L. Kaplan

This engaging work functions as extended critical essay in dialogue with the republication of ‘Bread, Politics and Political Economy’ (1976), focused on 18th-century France, dealing with the fraught question of regulation in its multiples guises: economic, social, political, cultural and psychological.

PDF, 468 Pages


August 2015

£23.96, $38.36

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EPUB, 468 Pages


August 2015

£23.96, $38.36

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About This Book

This book has a double agenda. First, it is a series of free-standing essays dealing with the fraught question of regulation in its multiples guises: economic, social, political, cultural and psychological. At the same time, it serves as a companion volume to the re-edition of Kaplan’s landmark ‘Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV’, which first appeared in 1976. The chapters that unfold reveal how Kaplan’s thinking has evolved in reaction both to the changing intellectual, epistemological, historiographical and sociopolitical environment, and to some of the significant scholarship that has been accomplished during the past forty years. This study is conceived as a commentary on and a dialogue with ‘Bread, Politics’ and with researchers who have written in and around the concerns of that book.

Kaplan treats themes with which readers of his first book are conversant: the matrix motif of regulation; agriculture; markets; collective action and the moral economy; the people; order and disorder; the parlements in the age of the Economic Enlightenment; the king and kingship; the monarch and his ministers in the elaboration and execution of public policy; the new historiography of political economy; and the old, persistent tragedy of famine, understood as the problem of food insecurity in its less virulent incarnations.

Kaplan engages them all with keen interest, and his discussion is “problem”-oriented. The author focuses largely on the questions that he considered, or failed to raise or resolve, in his inaugural work. The unity of outlook derives from the triangulation between the ‘Bread, Politics’ of 1976, a dense selection of the scholarship of the past four decades, and the critical gaze that Kaplan directs toward both. Kaplan remains faithful to the premise of ‘Bread, Politics’: that the subsistence question, broadly construed, is at the core of eighteenth-century history, and that the issues joined by the struggle over liberalization have marked French (and European/Atlantic) history ever since. These issues continue to shape our destiny today through the bristling tension between liberty and equality, and the debate over the necessity, legitimacy and character of regulation.


“‘The Stakes of Regulation’, with its often drôle, always limpid and sometimes mordantly polemical style, is a dazzling toolbox on the ways of doing history, an epistemological reflection on how to gain access to the past, and a fresh reading of some of the major issues of eighteenth-century history.” —Arnaud Orain, University of Paris 8

“A spectacular achievement. Steven Kaplan leverages forty years of historical scholarship to revitalize our understanding of the political economy of that most sacred of French foodstuffs: bread. ‘Stakes of Regulation’ brilliantly illuminates the tensions between liberty and equality that fractured eighteenth-century France. A must-read for anyone interested in the first modern debate on regulation.” —Michael Kwass, Johns Hopkins University

“This is a masterful critical reflection on the scholarship of the past four decades dealing with issues Kaplan raised in his classic ‘Bread, Politics and Political Economy’, which introduced us to what he felicitously calls the Economic Enlightenment. Mingling the social with the cultural and political, he shows brilliantly how the battle of liberalism emerged for the first time stridently in the France of Louis XV, and persists even today.” —Gilles Postel-Vinay, Paris School of Economics

Author Information

Steven L. Kaplan is the Goldwin Smith Professor of European History, emeritus at Cornell University.


Anthem Other Canon Economics

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. (Re-)Thinking Regulation: Police, Prices, Markets; 2. Agriculture and the French Economy of the Old Regime; 3. Collective Action and Its Actors: The Moral Economy and the Market, the People and the Elites, Disorder and Order; 4. The Parlements in the Age of Economic Enlightenment; 5. Kings and Ministers: Politics and Policies, Finance and Subsistence; 6. The New Historiography of Political Economy; 7. Famine, Dearth, and Food (In-)Security; Afterword; Index

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