Economic Structures of Antiquity

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995 - Business & Economics - 262 pages

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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Contents

Gods as Inputs and Outputs of the Ancient Economy
3
B Syncretism as an Investment in Trust
7
C Oaths and the Gods
10
D The Contribution of Temples to Economic Growth
18
An Application of Behavioral Economics
34
Adaptations of Markets and Hierarchical Relationships to Transaction Costs
39
Investment in Name Capital
42
C An Alternative Interpretations of Gift Trade
45
B Water Transport
85
C Storage and Monopoly Power
88
D Diffusion of Technology
91
Markets in Antiquity The Challenge of the Evidence
95
The Existence of Markets
97
The Credibility of Markets
153
The Response to Changes in Economic Incentives and Public Policy
179
New Markets and Land Consolidation
181

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 if Firm and Versatility of Firm
66
Who Were the Entrepreneurs? The Problem of Public Enterprise
73
Commercial Transport Gains from Trade Storage and Diffusion of New Technology
81
A Land Transport
82
A Sumer
182
B Archaic Greece
184
C Babylonia
189
Changes in Economic Policy and Organization
195
Concluding Remarks
201
Selected Bibliography
205
Index
243
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

MORRIS SILVER is Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Economics Department, City College of the City University of New York./e Professor Silver has published extensively on economic issues, including three books on economics in the Ancient World.

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