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Corruption and Markets in 19th Century Ottoman Laws
This paper focuses on the early 19th century Ottoman codes on functioning of markets, determination of prices and corruption crimes in such functions. I argue that regulation of market related activity and associated crimes in the 19th century Ottoman Empire are based on a notion of justice that became increasingly related to perception of markets as naturally-functioning, spontaneous mechanisms that help assess the scope and efficacy of government action. Conceptualization of markets as following a natural order is at the heart of Quesnay’s Tableau Économique, which was published in 1758—in the midst of debates about the reach of police des grains encapsulating the relationship between the “belief in market orderliness” and the “expansion of the penal sphere.” Conviction in markets’ natural order necessitates a reconceptualization of government’s role as the “spontaneity” of the market makes interference unnecessary (at the theoretical level). There are two implications for this. First, as Alan Supiot observed, the nature of governing changes. The logic of governing is not left in the hands of a cameralist state. Rather, we see a shift from government to governance through relinquishing a big part of our life and freedoms to the law and the state. The second implication is that the market becomes a site of veridiction (in Foucoultian terms) as it becomes an experiment site where one can pinpoint excessive governance. The market becomes the ruler to measure how much one should govern. A similar transformation happened in the Ottoman Empire. Consider the institutional transformation of the provisioning mechanism: The validity of Ottoman provisioning institutions (such as price control, monitored guild structures, controlled monopsonistic purchases through a requisition system etc.) came under increased scrutiny by the end of the 18th century as consultative bodies explored options to eliminate the inefficiencies in the provisioning system. The requisitioning agents’ abuse of power and smuggling were identified as systemic problems, the official price policy was abolished and a Central Grain Administration was founded to prevent irregularities in supply of grain to Istanbul (a similar trend was observed in the provisioning of meat). By the end of the eighteenth century Istanbul was negotiating the price with the representatives of the providers in a competitive manner and by mid-nineteenth century due to the requisitioning agents’ “corruption” the system was abolished all together. This paper will focus on the relationship between the “market order” and the penal sphere in the Ottoman Empire.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area
Ottoman Studies