Quesnay, François

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Quesnay, François

(fräNswä` kĕnā`), 1694–1774, French economist, founder of the physiocratic school. A physician to Louis XV, he did not begin his economic studies until 1756, when he wrote the articles "Fermiers" [farmers] and "Grains" for the Encyclopédie. His chief work was the Tableau économique [economic table] (1758), said to have been printed by the king's own hands. Quesnay and his followers believed that the Tableau summed up the natural law of economy. Quesnay and the other physiocratsphysiocrats
, school of French thinkers in the 18th cent. who evolved the first complete system of economics. They were also referred to simply as "the economists" or "the sect." The founder and leader of physiocracy was François Quesnay.
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 greatly influenced the thought of Adam Smith. Quesnay's works have been collected in Œuvres économiques et philosophiques (with biographical studies and introduction, 1888).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Quesnay, François


Born June 4, 1694, in Mérey, near Paris; died Dec. 16, 1774, in Versailles. French economist, founder of the Physiocratic School.

In 1718, Quesnay passed the examination for the title of physician, and in 1744 he received the doctor of medicine degree and became court physician to Louis XV. He began working on economic problems at age 60. According to Marx the essential merit of the Physiocrats, and above all Quesnay, was that “within the limits of the bourgeois outlook they provided an analysis of capital. This same merit also makes them the real fathers of modern political economy” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 1, p. 12).

Quesnay and his school rejected the basic thesis of mercantilism, that the circulation of commodities is the origin of profit, and attempted to explain the dependence of the increase in wealth on the process of production. Quesnay’s first articles, devoted to questions regarding the price of grain and taxes, were included in Diderot’s Encyclopédie. His main work, Economic Table (1758), was the first attempt to analyze social economic reproduction through determining fixed balanced ratios between natural (material) and cost elements of a social product. In the context of his time, Quesnay’s theoretical system was progressive. The practical recommendations that arose from it, for example, the imposition of the entire tax burden on the landowners, were essentially antifeudal.


Izbr. ekonomicheskie proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from French.)


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 2. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 24.
Marx, K. Teorii probavochnoi stoimosti (vol. 4 of Kapital), part 1. Ibid., vol. 26, part 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.