By John R. Love
This formidable e-book addresses questions touching on an previous subject matter - the increase and fall of historical civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical point of view via taking its lead from the paintings of the nice German sociologist Max Weber.
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Additional resources for Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization
He notes how in certain circumstances a slave can be said to constitute a capital good par excellence, and in antiquity slaves of this kind were collected in large numbers. Slaves as workers are obviously a means of production, but in addition, because they are easily transportable and can be readily exchanged, they may become objects of speculative trade. Such was certainly the case in antiquity where slaves became abundant through the many markets which appeared wherever conquests occurred, or wherever piracy and slave-raiding provided permanent supply.
There are three senses in which Weber regards the oikos as having played a central role. First, the economic development of the slave-worked estate is understood to have taken place within the constraints of the autarkic household. Hence, division of labour always remained elementary, and the scale of production for market resale was correspondingly limited. Second, in the early classical era the independent city-state itself functioned somewhat like an oikos, because it remained autarkic to a high degree, providing many of its needs not through trade but directly from the immediate hinterland and by state requisitioning.
So it would appear that Weber believes capitalism played an important role only during a few key periods, always having a limited and fragile existence against the backdrop of a natural economy. But Weber’s view is not so clear as it at first appears, for when he claims that whole periods were shaped by capitalism, does he mean capitalism during such times became a major means of want satisfaction for the mass of the population? Or did capitalism gain its importance in some other manner? When he uses the term capitalism, we would like to know to what precisely he is referring.