Luxury and Consumption in Eighteenth-Century Italy: Intellectual History, Methodological Ideas and Interdisciplinary Research Practice

History of European Ideas 40 (4):1-21 (2014)

This article has two aims. In the first part I will present some methodological considerations on intellectual history, particularly in relation to other disciplines considered similar yet different, such as the history of ideas, the history of concepts and the history of discourse. I will then seek to clarify what it means, in terms of research practice, to write intellectual history, taking as a starting point the subject of my own research, namely the political implications of economic thinking on luxury and consumption in Italy during the second half of the eighteenth century. More specifically, I intend to highlight the unique characteristics of intellectual history, understood as global history, which requires the reconstruction of the different contexts in which its underlying ideas and objectives developed, concentrating on its highly interdisciplinary nature. In particular, I will focus on a specific type of interdisciplinarity that characterised the methodology of my research, namely the attempt to hold together political thought and economic analysis. Eighteenth-century Italy was in fact marked by a strong, multifaceted political evaluation of economic thinking on luxury and consumption, which led me to examine the discussion of the subject through two lenses, those of economic analysis and political thinking. This specificity shows how the reconstruction of economic thought constitutes a fertile course for the investigation of the political culture and social projects of Italian authors in the eighteenth century, at a time when economic science was taking shape as a separate discipline
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2013.826429
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