Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by Akademie Verlag November 23, 2016

„Ist nämlich der ganze Spekulationsverkehr erst einmal in einen krankhaft erregten Zustand hineingerathen…“

Pathologien der Börse im späten 19. Jahrhundert

Alexander Engel


The late nineteenth century discourse on stock and commodity exchanges, and especially on the crisis of 1873, made heavy use of metaphors. As a statistical analysis of some key publications in the German language area shows, biological and medical metaphors clearly dominated. They were useful to underscore a number of very different opinions on the frugal or poisonous effects of speculation, capital, etc.; the degree to which exchange reforms (‘medical procedures’) were required or not; and if the exchange needed to be saved at all, or rather to be eradicated for being ‘parasitic’. In contrast to meteorological and mechanistic metaphors, images of health and sickness allowed incorporating a moral dimension in the analysis. The idea of the exchange as a potentially healthy or sick organism became intertwined with notions of speculators themselves, figuratively or literally, developing occasional ‘speculative fever’ (a new variety of the long-established concept of gambling fever) and a constant hysterical condition, as a lifestyle disease of capitalism in the ‘age of nervousness’.

JEL Classification: B 15; D 84; N 23; Z 13
Published Online: 2016-11-23
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

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