By John R. Love
This bold publication addresses questions bearing on an outdated subject matter - the increase and fall of historical civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical standpoint by way of taking its lead from the paintings of the good German sociologist Max Weber.
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Extra resources for Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization
Whereas in The Agrarian Sociology state contracting and the market form of capitalism were regarded as complementary, both contributing to the development of an undifferentiated capitalism, in Economy and Society by contrast it is only political capitalism, now distinguished as a separate genus, which is regarded as having been of any real importance in antiquity and this was antithetical to rational capitalism. , groups of private businessmen to whom the state farmed out the levying of taxes and the exploitation of state-owned mines and salt works.
With this purpose in mind Weber sets out to fashion a sufficiently broad definition of capitalism (one not based on the labour contract) to allow the inclusion of certain kinds of activity found in antiquity and elsewhere. It is then easy to claim the existence of some ‘capitalistic activities’, such as those involving the exploitation of slaves, because profit making and money were indispensable there. On the other hand, Weber is also concerned to explore the difference of the ancient economy from modern capitalism; though not along the same lines as with the marxist schematization.
The difficulty with this approach, however, is that it is not at all clear how the specific character of some of the activities just listed can be reconciled with the initial definition of capitalism as meaning the production of goods for market exchange. Consider the example of tax farming: is this capitalistic in the sense formally defined? Clearly, the answer is no, and there are like difficulties with several of the other forms of enterprise listed. We must therefore conclude that Weber’s use of the term capitalism is not consistent.
Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization by John R. Love