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Abstract

In the recent decade the perspectives of historical epistemology have turned economic practices into a novel object of study: the focus lies on how discourses, techniques of measurement and valuation produce economic facts.1 The research on the historical epistemologies of economic facts belongs to a broader scholarly endeavor that takes place in cultural anthropology, social theory, literary studies, political theory and history. This interdisciplinary work brings to light how deeply economic issues are constituted by intermingling a set of cultural, political, technical and legal distinctions, which distinguish what counts as properly economic from what does not.2 In this perspective, the very definition of economy becomes a hybrid and contentious affair.

The central theoretical question for the historical epistemology and cultural anthropology of economy is currently how to conceptualize the link between epistemic practices and acts of ‘doing the economy’. This special issue on the Historical Episte mology of the Economic pushes us to think about this crucial link. Monika Dommann, Daniel Speich Chassé and Mischa Suter explore different modes of approaching the interlacing of epistemology and economy. These modes can be discussed under the following headings: 1) Pragmatics and Poetologies of Knowledge, 2) Economic Discourses and Epistemic Techniques, 3) Boundaries of Economy. On the basis of the richness of the historical material and the finely grained arguments that these papers bring forth, I will elaborate on the conceptualization of these linkages between epistemology and economy. My discussion culminates in the attempt to clarify an analytical distinction that is freely used in this special issue but that deserves further discussion: the distinction between the economic and the economy as an object of historical epistemology. My question is, does it matter if we write a historical epistemology of the economic or of the economy? What distinction do we wish to make by juxtaposing these two?