Cameralism and the Enlightenment

Enlightenment Gallery

Enlightenment Gallery (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

What is “Cameralism” and Cameralist thinking? Was it a transformative or conservative (or both transformative and conservative) approach to social management as Outram explains it in Chapter 3?

Cameralism is a body of thinking that emphasized the virtues of a strong government, and the importance of a state’s wealth (Outram 35). As a social management program, cameralism argued that rulers should try to regulate the lives of their subjects in order to obtain vital economic objectives. As a result, the state provided social regulation, social welfare, and curricula that were catered to the training of the enlightened (Outram 35). Cameralism was much more popular in Germany than in France, and as a result University teachers often occupied major government positions and guided social reforms about social and economic intervention across geographical areas (Outram 35). This approach to social management seems to be transformative in that it incorporates Enlightenment into the bureaucracy of government. Unlike in France during this time, where enlightened ideas were still not being implemented on a wide scale, and Germany, Enlightenment ideas were being incorporated into the government as a result of the hierarchy. However, this approach to social management also appears to be conservative in that it assumes the Enlightenment is the end point of thinking about the world, and makes it virtually impossible to then incorporate other ways of thinking into the bureaucracy.

Outram, D. The Enlightenment. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University. 2005. Print.

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