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Guilds, Efficiency, and Social Capital: Evidence from German Proto-Industry

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  • Sheilagh Ogilvie

Abstract

This paper analyzes an early modern German economy to test alternative theories about guilds. It finds little evidence to support recent hypotheses arguing that guilds corrected market failures relating to product quality, training, and innovation. But it finds that guilds were social networks that generated a social capital of shared norms, common information, mutual sanctions, and collective political action. Guilds’ social capital affected rival producers, suppliers, employees, consumers, the government, and the wider economy. Economic analyses of collective action, it is argued, can explain why guilds were so widespread while not necessarily being efficient.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2002. "Guilds, Efficiency, and Social Capital: Evidence from German Proto-Industry," CESifo Working Paper Series 820, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_820
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Epstein, S. R., 1998. "Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 684-713, September.
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    5. Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2003. "A Bitter Living: Women, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205548.
    6. Federico Etro, 2004. "Innovation by leaders," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 281-303, April.
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