While Voltaire was debating Jean Baptiste Colbert’s policies for the promotion of industry, he was no less concerned about the ways in which the ministers of his time should contribute to the further development of industry. Debates about industry were in the eighteenth century — just as in later periods — often directly linked to projects of political and economic reform. Voltaire and many of his contemporaries were engaged in political campaigns to change specific institutions which they saw as obstacles to industry. One of the most prominent campaigns of this kind was Voltaire’s campaign against serfdom in France and Russia during the late 1760s and 1770s. The campaign against serfdom was closely associated to the reform projects of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot’s ministry from 1774 to 1776. Voltaire and Turgot both wanted to change the feudal rules which governed many aspects of economic and social interaction. The abolition of obsolete feudal rules was seen by Turgot and Voltaire as a precondition for the further development of industry. They argued that the institutional order and the legal condition of the individual had to be adapted to facilitate the further growth of industry. Voltaire saw in the rules of serfdom a particularly oppressive institution which posed a strong obstacle to the development of industry.
KeywordsPolitical Campaign Early Debate Reform Project Individual Industry Strong Obstacle
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