Economic Structures Of Antiquity

Overview

The economy of the ancient Middle East and Greece is reinterpreted by Morris Silver in this provocative new synthesis. Silver finds that the ancient economy emerges as a class of economies with its own laws of motion shaped by transaction costs (the resources used up in exchanging ownership rights). The analysis of transaction costs provides insights into many characteristics of the ancient economy, such as the important role of the sacred and symbolic gestures in making contracts, magical technology, the ...

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Overview

The economy of the ancient Middle East and Greece is reinterpreted by Morris Silver in this provocative new synthesis. Silver finds that the ancient economy emerges as a class of economies with its own laws of motion shaped by transaction costs (the resources used up in exchanging ownership rights). The analysis of transaction costs provides insights into many characteristics of the ancient economy, such as the important role of the sacred and symbolic gestures in making contracts, magical technology, the entrepreneurial role of high-born women, the elevation of familial ties and other departures from impersonal economics, reliance on slavery and adoption, and the insatiable drive to accumulate trust-capital. The peculiar behavior patterns and mindsets of ancient economic man are shown to be facilitators of economic growth.

In recent years, our view of the economy of the ancient world has been shaped by the theories of Karl Polanyi. Silver confronts Polanyi's empirical propositions with the available evidence and demonstrates that antiquity knew active and sophisticated markets. In the course of providing an alternative analytical framework for studying the ancient economy, Silver gives critical attention to the economic views of the Assyriologists I.M. Diakonoff, W.F. Leemans, Mario Liverani, and J.N. Postgate; of the Egyptologists Jacob J. Janssen and Wolfgang Helck; and of the numerous followers of Moses Finley. Silver convincingly demonstrates that the ancient world was not static: periods of pervasive economic regulation by the state are interspersed with lengthy periods of relatively unfettered market activity, and the economies of Sumer, Babylonia, and archaic Greece were capable of transforming themselves in order to take advantage of new opportunities. This new synthesis is essential reading for economic historians and researchers of the ancient Near East and Greece.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The first part of this book explores diverse topics including institutional characteristics of the ancient economy; the role of the sacred in the making of contracts; the substitution of memory, recitation, and symbolic gestures for general literacy; and the prominence of women in entrepreneurial roles. The second part examines economic historian Karl Polanyi's thought and provides an alternative analytical framework, with critical attention given to the work of assorted Assyriologists, Egyptologists, and other classical scholars. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

MORRIS SILVER is Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Economics Department, City College of the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Author's Notes
Chronological Table
Introduction
Pt. I Structural Characteristics of the Ancient Economy 1
1 Gods as Inputs and Outputs of the Ancient Economy 3
A The Contribution of Gods to Economic Growth 3
B Syncretism as an Investment in Trust 7
C Oaths and the Gods 10
D The Contribution of Temples to Economic Growth 18
E Contribution of Economic Growth to the Gods: An Application of Behavioral Economics 34
2 Adaptations of Markets and Hierarchical Relationships to Transaction Costs 39
A Symbolic Action and Recitation in the Contractual Process 39
B Code of the Merchant: Investment in Name Capital 42
C An Alternative Interpretation of "Gift Trade" 45
D Importance of Family Firms 50
E Family Ties and Innovation 53
F Women as Businesspersons and Entrepreneurs 54
G Employment of Slaves and Adoptees 64
H Size of Firm and Versatility of Firm 66
3 Who Were the Entrepreneurs? The Problem of "Public" Enterprise 73
4 Commercial Transport, Gains from Trade, Storage, and Diffusion of New Technology 81
A Land Transport 82
B Water Transport 85
C Storage and Monopoly Power 88
D Diffusion of Technology 91
Pt. II Markets in Antiquity: The Challenge of the Evidence 95
5 The Existence of Markets 97
6 The Credibility of Markets 153
Pt. III The Response to Changes in Economic Incentives and Public Policy 179
7 New Markets and Land Consolidation 181
A Sumer 182
B Archaic Greece 184
C Babylonia 189
8 Changes in Economic Policy and Organization 195
9 Concluding Remarks 201
Selected Bibliography 205
Index 243
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