Economic Table

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Economic Table


(Tableau économique), the principal work by F. Quesnay, the founder of the Physiocrats; the first attempt to analyze social reproduction by establishing definite balanced proportions between the natural (material) and value elements of social production. Economic Table was written in 1758.

Economic Table sets forth the erroneous theory of the net product (produit net), which according to Quesnay is created only in agriculture, and divides society into three classes: the productive class (farmers and hired agricultural laborers), the proprietary class (landowners and the king), and the sterile class (industrialists, merchants, artisans, and hired industrial workers). Quesnay then describes the circulation of a year’s product, a process that begins after the farmers have paid the landowners rent, which is considered the only form of net product, in the amount of 2 billion livres.

The process of circulation comprises the following five acts: (1) The landowners purchase 1 billion livres’ worth of food from the farmers; as a result, 1 billion livres return to the farmers, and one-fifth of the year’s product goes out of circulation. (2) The landowners use the remaining 1 billion of their 2 billion livres received in rent to buy industrial articles from the sterile class. (3) With the 1 billion livres received for its industrial articles, the sterile class buys food products from the farmers. A second billion livres is thus returned to the farmers, and two-fifths of the year’s product goes out of circulation. (4) The farmers buy 1 billion livres’ worth of industrial articles from the sterile class, which go toward the replacement of tools and materials whose value was included in the value of the year’s product. (5) The sterile class uses its 1 billion livres to purchase raw materials from the farmers. The circulation of the year’s product thus ensures the replacement of the capital (avances) used in agriculture and industry, and production can begin again.

K. Marx criticized the flaws and contradictions in Economic Table. Since it was based on the erroneous theory of the net product and an incorrect class division of society, the work did not reflect the mechanism of capitalist reproduction and its contradictions. The practical recommendations that came out of Economic Table, however, were progressive and antifeudal.


Marx, K. Kapital, vols. 1–2. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 23–24.
Marx, K. Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti (vol. 4 of Kapital). Ibid., vol. 26, part 2.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20.
Anikin, A. V. lunost’ nauki. Moscow, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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