By John R. Love
This bold ebook addresses questions relating an previous subject matter - the increase and fall of historical civilization - yet does so from a particular theoretical point of view 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
Weber speaks of such wealth as having had a certain ‘creative significance’. 34 But again we must ask: did such investment constitute genuine capitalism? Weber’s detailed comments on the economic role of slave labour in agriculture are pertinent here. 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.
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. Which is not to say that it did not have important effects in other directions. Nor does it mean that the provisioning of the needs of the masses in antiquity was not affected in any way whatsoever by forms of capitalism, political or otherwise—for example, the production of wine and olive oil was partly in the hands of private producers who, we shall see, were oriented to the market in some measure.
Weber argues that a system based on this kind of labour with a local money economy and limited market exchange predominated wherever land prices were excessive or where population density and slave prices were high. It is perhaps now clearer what Weber means when he claims capitalism was predominant during certain key periods, while for antiquity as a whole this was not the case. Only when military conquest and territorial expansion led to great increases in the supply of slaves, and hence to a significant lowering in their price, could the exploitation of slaves in agriculture, mining, navigation and industry be sufficiently profitable to give rise to capitalist development.
Antiquity and Capitalism: Max Weber and the Sociological Foundations of Roman Civilization by John R. Love