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By John R. Love

This formidable e-book addresses questions pertaining to an previous topic - the increase and fall of old civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical point of view by way of taking its lead from the paintings of the nice German sociologist Max Weber.

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Extra resources for Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization

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42 In Weber’s view, on the contrary, capital by its very nature is indifferent to the social characteristics of labour. But this position seems no less arbitrary than that Weber attacks; for it merely asserts, as if it were a self-evident truth, that the concept of capitalism must take only economic factors into consideration. Weber’s dogmatism here arises from his desire to reconcile two assumptions about capitalism and antiquity which are at first sight in contradiction. On the one hand, he wishes to counter the view (espoused by Marx amongst others) that capitalism is utterly unique to the modern world.

43 But in focusing upon the problem of the rationality of modern capitalism, Weber at the same time problematizes the issue of rationality with respect to the study of pre-modern cultures also. As our concern here is antiquity, we shall concentrate in what follows on the implications of Weber’s treatment of rationality for his interpretation of the ancient economy. 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.

Is it to plantations based on slave labour (latifundia)? Or does he intend a wider range of acquisitive activities which includes different forms of enterprise? The character of the market is a crucial issue here. Was this fully developed as a system of money-based exchange as we know it today? Finally, it is pertinent to ask what significance, if any, capitalism had during those periods when it Antiquity and capitalism 28 wasn’t dominant. What kind of economy existed then? Did capitalism still persist but in a minor way?

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