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Horst Steinke


civic life and institutions up to the large-scale level, rather than

on its economic role in the usual sense of the word



Nevertheless, there are definitely various references or discus-

sions of matters of an economic nature proper in

Scienza nuova


although mainly outside this particular Section. They deal with

matters such as

physical needs and desires, wealth


commerce, labor and

industriousness, property/land ownership, fiefs, land cultivation and land




While these complex aspects and relationships cannot be

elucidated here to any satisfactory degree, it can be stated that

such matters of “economics” are discussed in the context(s) of

sociopolitical developments, not the reverse situation of eco-

nomic imperatives being depicted as the driving force behind the

course that societies take


. It was only in the second half of the



century that the study of the economy came into its own



but, like all major new developments in the history of ideas, it

did not sprout and blossom all of a sudden on entirely unpre-

pared ground


. Furthermore, ancient Greece, Rome, and the

classical thinkers and writers served as inspiration for the catego-

ries or concerns through the lens of which to explore early mod-

ern economic realities


, classical sources with which Vico was

no less familiar than the new breed of social historians. Although

Vico’s historical “untimeliness” cannot be ruled out as the most

significant factor in the lack of a more systematic treatment of

economic relations over time than he provided in «Poetic Econ-

omy» and in connection with other topics in

Scienza nuova

, a dif-

ferent reason may be more weighty, namely, his strict concern

with unearthing the complex of “forces” that are most “radical”,

most determinative, in both genesis and ontogenesis of human

society. The fact that the economy (in todays’s sense) is missing

from the repertoire of Book II can then be taken as an indication

that Vico did not judge economic matters, all things considered,

as primordial to the same degree as any of those factors that

made it into his

tour d’horizon


. And the same implication can

now be stated about art (visual/plastic). As referred to above, he