Intoxicants and the Invention of "Consumption"
In 1600 the word consumption was a term of medical pathology describing the "wasting, petrification of things." By 1700 it was also a term of economic practice: "In commodities, the value rises as its quantity is less and vent greater, which depends upon it being preferred in its consumption." This talk examines how a term of medical pathology became a normative economic descriptor. It also considers the concerns and issues that informed this semantics and why, in particular, "intoxicants" like alcohols and tobaccos figured so prominently in its appropriation by early mercantilist writers.
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