Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological by John R. Love

By John R. Love

This bold e-book addresses questions bearing on an previous subject matter - the increase and fall of historical civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical standpoint by means of taking its lead from the paintings of the good German sociologist Max Weber.

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What was its part in the overall economic life of ancient society? Weber’s initial response to these problems is indicated in the following passage where he offers a general characterization of the ancient economy: the economic surplus of the ancient city…always had its original basis in the rents which the landed princes and noble clans derived from their estates and from levies on their dependents. This was true to a degree unknown today…the significance of this source of wealth, and with it the specific political conditions of the economic ‘flowering’ of the cities—and hence too their decline— remained very important throughout all Antiquity.

In his earlier accounts of the Roman economy, as we have just seen, when specifically referring to definitions of capital and capitalism, Weber is by and large in no doubt as to the presence of at least some form of capitalism. ), it is another to so categorize contracting activities like tax farming, the sale of offices, the financing of wars, or the provisioning of supplies for the army. As pointed out above, Weber’s original notion of capitalism had displayed a distinct modernizing bias. Basing his analysis on the idea of commerce and market exchange, he defines a capitalist economy in such a way that both the goods produced and the means of production are objects of trade.

On the other hand, large-scale capitalist enterprises based on free labour and similar to modern capitalist enterprises were not a regular feature of private economic activity, neither in agriculture nor elsewhere. When large enterprises employing only free labour on a regular basis did arise, these were always state concerns. Speaking generally, Weber appears to conclude that a type of market economy existed which, while not corresponding exactly with the modern variant, was nonetheless capitalist in an adequate sense of the term.

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