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The marketization of the French public finance before capitalism: The paulette edict of 1604


The sovereign debt market represents one of the most active and highly regarded fields of financial transaction. Nevertheless, the trading of public debt securities is no natural phenomenon. It is the fruit of a long social and political process. We have chosen the history of France’s public finances as the subject of our empirical investigation because France represents a unique example of marketization of state finances outside the capitalist mode of production. We posit that the birth of this market system can be traced back to the introduction of the paulette tax in 1604, a reform which modified the rules governing the granting, valuation and transmission of public offices, creating the necessary conditions for a market on which these titles could be exchanged freely. This paper is based on archival research and information gathered from the French National Archives and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). The concept of socio-technical devices proposed by Çalışkan and Callon provides a theoretical reference framework to the extent that it allows us to define the nature of the market relations established. However, the case of the office market brings to the fore the need to distinguish between marketization and the notion of market agencement. The market for offices came about less from economic theories or practices than from political and social ones. The office market followed the sovereignty imperatives of the state.


Keywords: Offices; Ancien Régime; Public Finance; Marketization; Market Agencement; Social Studies of Finance

Dernier chapitre d'ouvrage

Paving the Way towards Financialization: the French Case of State Venality of Offices (century 15th-17th)


In the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries, the administrative organisation of the French state was based on the offices. Significant modifications took place during this period, from the transformation of offices as lifetime ownership in 1467 to the constitution of the casual parties in 1522 and to the ratification of the edict of annual right in 1604. Because of the state’s need for financing, in particular the wars in which it is involved, the nature of offices is changed during that period of time. One of the most important impacts of those modifications is the occurrence of a commodification process of the state apparatuses. This paper highlights also the fact that the state’s finances are being financialised along with the development of the state. The French case is thus characterised by a unique symbiotic relationship between the commodification of state apparatuses, the financialisation of the state’s finances, and the institutional changes. This relationship is grasped through the theoretical framework of the regulation school of thoughts and is analysed based on archival work.


Keywords: Financialisation; state; money; office; old regime; financial and economic history

Dernière note de lecture

L’économie numérique : une involution du mode de production capitaliste ?
À propos de l’ouvrage Techno-féodalisme. Critique de l’économie numérique de Cédric Durand



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