Economic Structures of Antiquity

Economic Structures of Antiquity

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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 more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 163.6 x 241 x 26.7mm | 651.92g
  • Greenwood Press
  • Westport, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0313293805
  • 9780313293801
  • 1,373,838

Review quote

?The idea of transaction costs has much to offer ancient economic historians; a means of describing antiquity that emphasises its specific character and yet permits (indeed, encourages) cross-cultural comparison.?-Journal of Hellenic Studiesshow more

About Morris Silver

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 more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Author's Notes Transcriptions and Phonetics Symbols References Chronological Table Introduction Structural Characteristics of the Ancient Economy Gods as Inputs and Outputs of the Ancient Economy Adaptations of Markets and Hierarchical Relationships to Transaction Costs Who Were the Entrepreneurs? The Problem of "Public" Enterprise Commercial Transport, Gains from Trade, Storage, and Diffusion of New Technology Markets in the Ancient Near East: The Challenge of the Evidence The Existence of Markets The Credibility of Markets The Response to Changes in Economic Incentives and Public Policy New Markets and Land Consolidation Changes in Economic Policy and Organization Concluding Remarks Selected Bibliography Indexshow more