Smarte Unternehmer, ausgegrenzte Versager: produktives Scheitern im 15. Jahrhundert?


  • Ulla Kypta



In late medieval economy, failing was as much a social as an economic process. The story of the hanseatic merchant Hildebrand Veckinchusen (ca. 1365-1426) shows how his network of family members, friends, and business partners on the one hand enabled him to be successful as a merchant. On the other hand the same network deployed its social power against him once he had run into problems: As his potential new investors had to stem from the circle of his old partners, they all knew his fate, and they all informed each other about his shortcomings. So Hildebrand had to borrow the money he needed from outside his network from an external creditor. His friends would have been able to defer the return of his loans (as they knew how to keep track of him), whereas the external creditor could not and thus put him in prison as an insolvent debtor. His friends offered help only on the condition that Hildebrand did admit his faults and listened to their advice, but he refused. But Veckinchusen’s network demanded control of his decisions and affairs in which the social an economic sphere were intimately linked. Hildebrand didn’t perceive himself as failed, contrary to what his friends expected him to do. Thus he wasn’t allowed back into the network, which, to be successful, had to exclude failures such as Hildebrand Veckinchusen.