Tableau économique

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Tableau Économique by Francois Quesnay

The Tableau économique ( German  economic table ; complete: Analyze du Tableau économique , German  analysis of the economic table ) is an essay written by the physiocrat François Quesnay , who dealt with the representation of the economic cycle for the first time in economics .


Quesnay dealt with agricultural production , which in his cycle model ran on the premises of free trade , free price formation , a capitalist leasing system and the flow of goods or money between three classes. Quesnay gave the Tableau économique to his King Louis XV in December 1758 . , whose personal physician he was, in Palace of Versailles . Quesnay presented it together with the “Maximes générales du Gouvernement économique d'un royaume agricole et notes sur ces Maximes” ( German  principles of economic policy for an agricultural kingdom and comments on these principles ). Its basic assumption was the agrarian state , in which the production of agricultural products dominated the economic process .


The doctor Quesnay adapted his model of an economic cycle from the bloodstream . According to Quesnay, three classes take part in the economic cycle as economic subjects , namely the farmers and land tenants as the productive class ( French class productive ), the unproductive "sterile" class ( French class stérile ) merely transforms the agricultural products of the productive ones ( trade , craft and industry ) , while the landowners ( French classe des propriétaires ) stand between the two classes . Solely on agriculture as a sector of the primary production of agricultural production going out on which the value was building. Some of the agricultural products are consumed by the farmers through self-sufficiency (seeds for plants, feed for livestock or food for private households), the rest goes to the sterile class for processing and trading and to the landowners for rent payments. The sterile class acquires from the achieved gross margin (the difference between the selling prices from the market and the purchase prices of intermediate goods ) agricultural products for own consumption .

The resulting flows of money and goods resulted in Quesnay's economic cycle of production , distribution and use , which visually looked like a zigzag pattern . Louis XI. showed interest, the Marquis de Mirabeau prompted Quesnay to a more understandable version, which appeared in 1759 as the second and third edition.

The Tableau économique represents a circular , intertwined stationary economy and explains both the production processes and the distribution and use of wealth .


Karl Marx , Theories of Added Value , 1956

Despite later editions, which should be more understandable to the skilled reader, the interpretation of the tableau still posed some puzzles. Karl Marx claimed in his contribution to Anti-Dühring in 1886 to have solved this satisfactorily. Another discussion of the teachings of Quesnay and the Physiocrats can be found in Marx's theories of surplus value . In it, Marx praised the tableau as “a highly ingenious idea, indisputably the most ingenious that political economy has been guilty of so far”.

"In fact, however, this attempt to present the entire production process of capital as a reproduction process, to include the circulation merely as the form of this reproduction process, the money circulation only as an element of the circulation of capital, at the same time to include in this reproduction process the origin of revenue [income, d. Ed.], To include the exchange between capital and revenue, the relation of reproductive consumption to definitive consumption, and to include in the circulation of capital the circulation between consumers and producers (in fact between capital and revenue), finally as moments of this process of reproduction the circulation between the to represent two major divisions of productive labor - raw production and manufacture - and all of this in a tableau, which in fact always only consists of 5 lines that connect 6 starting points or return points - in the second third of the 18th century, the childhood period of political economy - was a highly ingenious idea, indisputably the most ingenious that political economy has been guilty of so far. "

- Karl Marx: Theories about surplus value

In 1961 Joseph Schumpeter commented on the idea of ​​a stationary economic cycle:

“As a tacit assumption and in rudimentary form, it has been present in the thinking of all economists of all schools and times, even if most were not aware of this fact. Some were immediately hostile to it once it was strictly defined and exposed in all the drought of its abstraction. This was attempted by the Physiocrats and finally achieved by Léon Walras . Marshall's building is based on the same conception, which is important to emphasize in view of the fact that Marshall did not appreciate it and also practically made it disappear from his representation. "

- Joseph A. Schumpeter: Business Cycles. A theoretical, historical and statistical analysis of the capitalist process.

Wassily Leontief in particular, with his input-output analysis published in 1936, can be seen as an important supporter of this cycle view . Allen Oakley, on the other hand, noted in 1990 that Schumpeter himself, with his own theory of economic development , had ignored Marx's reproduction scheme and its further development by Rudolf Hilferding and Otto Bauer, as well as that by Adolph Lowe and Fritz Burchardt , which led to the one-sidedness of Schumpeter's dynamic analysis. In January 2008, two Dutch economists claimed to have solved the puzzle surrounding the tableau.


Although the subject of its analysis - feudal agriculture - has long been a thing of the past, the Tableau Économique has hardly lost any of its cognitive value to this day. François Quesnay's pioneering achievements include the structuring of society into economic-functional classes, the analysis of the economy using a potentially quantifiable formal model and the positive-rational justification of economic policy norms on the basis of deductive insights. It forms the basis of today's national accounts and econometrics .

Work editions

  • François Quesnay: Tableau économique, et maximes générales du governement économiques. Versailles 1758
  • François Quesnay: Analyze du Tableau économique, Journal de l'agriculture, commerce, arts et finances. 1766
  • François Quesnay: Tableau économique. (3rd edition, 1759). Ed., Incorporated. u. trans. by Marguerite Kuczynski . Berlin: Akademie-Verl. 1965
  • Wassily Leontief: Quesnay's "Tableau économique" and the use-output analysis. Frankfurt / Main Düsseldorf: Verl. Wirtschaft u. Finances. ISBN 3-87881-021-0


  • Birger P. Priddat: 'Le concert universel'. The Physiocracy. A transformation philosophy of the 18th century. Marburg: Metropolis 2001

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hans RG Rück, Services in the Economic Theory , 2000, p. 31
  2. First described by William Harvey in 1628
  3. ^ François Quesnay, Tableau économique, et maximes générales du governement économiques , Versailles, 1758, pp. 1 ff.
  4. ^ Coined by later dogma historians as "zigzag" ( French la version zigzag )
  5. Heinz D. Kurz (Ed.), Classics of Economic Thinking , Volume 1: From Adam Smith to Alfred Marschall , 2008, p. 61
  6. Friedrich Engels , Mr. Eugen Dühring's Umwälzung der Wissenschaft , 1886, p. 444. Digital Library Volume 11: Marx / Engels, p. 8075 (cf. MEW, Volume 20, p. 227). The tableau is published in the appendix, together with Marx's interpretation.
  7. Jump up ↑ Karl Marx, Theorien über den Wert [Value Added] , Volume 1, 1905, p. 319; Marx used the edition by Eugène Daire, Physiocrates ... , 1e partie, Paris 1846, pp. 57–66
  8. MEW, Volume 26.1, 1973, p. 319
  9. ^ Joseph A. Schumpeter, Business Cycles. A Theoretical, Historical, and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process , Volume One . Göttingen, 1961; English Business Cycles , New York / London, 1939, translated by Klaus Dockhorn, Volume I, 1961, p. 42
  10. Allen Oakley, Schumpeter's Theory of Capitalist Motion. A Critical Exposition and Reassessment , Edward Elgar, 1990. pp. 19 f., ISBN 1-85278-055-X
  11. Albert E. Steenge / Richard van den Berg, Lessons from Quesnay's Tableau Economique , January 2008, p 1 ff.
  12. Fritz Helmedag / Urs Weber, The cycle representation of the Tableau Économique , in: WISU 8-9, 2002, p. 1132 , (PDF file; 47 kB)