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

48 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2004

See all articles by Sheilagh Ogilvie

Sheilagh Ogilvie

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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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.

Keywords: Guilds, Social Capital, Social Networks

Suggested Citation

Ogilvie, Sheilagh, Guilds, Efficiency, and Social Capital: Evidence from German Proto-Industry. Economic History Review, Vol. 57, pp. 286-333, May 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=614141

Sheilagh Ogilvie (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/people/faculty/sco2

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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