By John R. Love
This formidable e-book addresses questions pertaining to an previous topic - the increase and fall of historic 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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Additional info for Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization
Weber merely indicates at one point that ergasteria played a very small role, whereas government contract was of major importance; he also says, in a remark probably aimed at his own earlier work (Die römische Agrargeschichte), that slave-based plantations (latifundia) were certainly not as significant as was once thought. 33 Further on in his Introduction, Weber mentions the fact that in certain periods of antiquity (notably, in the early classical era of Rome) large concentrations of precious metal occurred.
Clearly, such a type of capitalism does not have the same functional significance as do the capitalist institutions of modern society. In the case of the latter, the capitalistic organization of free labour in production is absolutely essential to the provisioning of the material needs of the masses, a fact which gives capitalism its immense cultural significance generally. 52 Political capitalism, on the contrary, cannot by its very nature play such a role; and therefore it did not play that role in antiquity.
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. 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.