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This bold e-book addresses questions touching on an outdated subject - the increase and fall of old civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical viewpoint by way of taking its lead from the paintings of the good German sociologist Max Weber.
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Extra info for Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization
There are a number of factors which should caution against this. For example, when ancient cities became dependent on grain imports, contrary to what might be expected, private trade was usually supplanted by state intervention, as at Athens (liturgical provisioning) and Rome (public provisioning). Weber also again draws attention to the oikos-economy theory of Rodbertus and Bücher in which, as we have seen the principle of self-sufficiency is strongly emphasized. Accordingly, he argues that division of labour always remained elementary, and that commerce was restricted largely to the disposal of excess production.
In a word, then: the civilization of Western Europe has become completely rural. 21 The limits of a political economy of antiquity Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of this account of the rise and fall of Roman civilization is the stress placed on economic structures and causes. Throughout his essay Weber is adamant that the key to the historical fate of Rome lies in the inner logic of the economy. , economic] disintegration of an ancient civilization’. 22 Or, as he puts it at the end of the essay: ‘a great civilization apparently approaches the height of perfection, then loses its economic basis and crumbles away’.
This question is Weber’s response to the common knowledge that in antiquity there were periods marked by dramatic increases in wealth and these were often followed by decline; the issue, therefore, is whether the existence of periods of apparent economic prosperity and expansion can be taken as evidence of a capitalist economic structure. But first Weber thinks it is necessary to offer a definition of ‘capitalism’: he provisionally suggests the term ought to mean the use of wealth to gain profit in commerce, and that therefore a ‘capitalist economy’ must entail the production of goods, in part at least, for the purpose of trade.
Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization by John R. Love