The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thought

The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thought

The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thought

The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thought

Synopsis

The Mediterranean Tradition in Economic Thoughtsurveys the legacy of thinking on economic affairs from the countries in the Mediterraean basin over four millenia. It considers the economic content of the scriptures of the Mesopotamian civilisations, Pharaonic Egypt and the Biblical peoples and the contributions of the Greeks and Romans, and their influence on Islamic civilisation and on the Medieval scholastics. The flowering of the school of Salamanca as recently as the seventeenth century demonstrates how long-lived the tradition was, and throughout Baeck demonstrates how these ideas continue to survive and resurface, citing the renewed interest in the ethical dimension of economics, the revival of interest in the history of Islamic thought, and the re-emergence of Slavophile doctrines in contemporary Russian.

Excerpt

There are many ways to approach the study of economic problems. Today we notice a revival of interest in the history of economic thought. This book presents an original blend of cultural development, economic history and economic thought in the cradle of Western civilization, the Mediterranean. The author takes us on a fascinating intellectual voyage, illustrating how ideas on the economy and its management evolved since the dawn of the high cultures. Against the pretence of the moderns who depict economics as a timeless and formal science with universal validity, in this welldocumented study economic thought is persuasively proclaimed to be an historical and cultural construct, with qualitative differences relative to time and place.

The book covers a time span of five millenia and demonstrates how doctrines emerged and matured in the different worldviews, cultures, religions and philosophical schools of the Mediterranean. The author demonstrates a familiarity with a quite extraordinary range of the immense literature, and selects and evaluates the most authoritative sources of our past in a well-balanced intellectual discourse, accessible to readers with only a limited background in economics.

The tale opens with the wisdom literature of pharaonic Egypt, where scribes sowed the seeds of the first rudiments of economic thought. The functioning of the well-organized temple and palace economy was embedded in a religious culture of outstanding originality and creativeness. The law-making kings of Mesopotamia followed suit, but they also opened the intellectual horizon to a legalistic way of thought for the normative ordering of the economy. In this they were followed by the authors of the biblical texts, who initiated an innovative and dialectic intermingling of lawgiving and moral consciousness. The bulk of the book concentrates on the trend-setting scriptures written by the most notorious Greek pamphleteers and philosophers of Antiquity. Their discourses on practical philosophy formed an historical bench-mark, engendering multiple renaissances.

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