Aristotle's Economic Thought

Aristotle's Economic Thought

Aristotle's Economic Thought

Aristotle's Economic Thought

Synopsis

Since the middle ages, Aristotle has been hailed as the father of economics by economists, while classical scholars hold that he did no economics at all, only ethics. This book argues that Aristotle does develop a coherent theory of value, wealth, exchange, and money, which is strongly supported by his metaphysics. But its very metaphysical foundation make the theory impossible to assimilate to Neo-Classical economics or any other kind of economic thinking, and it therefore remains an ethical theory. On Aristotelian metaphysical principles, ethics and economics are competitors over the same ground--as rival sources of reasons for decision-making in tihe public realm, and they cannot be reconciled.

Excerpt

In Politics 1.9 Aristotle looks at exchange in a different way. On the face of it he seems to be listing and distinguishing different forms of exchange: barter, or exchange without money; the use of money in exchange as a way of getting something that is needed; buying and selling to make money; and usury, or the lending of money at interest. This discussion of the types of exchange is usually treated as if it were a series of discrete discussions lacking proper theoretical cohesion. This is certainly wrong, because there is a strong theoretical unity in the chapter. Alternatively, if any kind of unity is perceived, it is thought to be a unity brought about solely by Aristotle's ethical concerns, and particularly by his concern with what is natural and unnatural. There is an important element of truth in this, but it cannot be clearly expressed, or the proper place of Aristotle's overriding ethical concerns rightly identified, unless the logic and structure of his analysis of exchange are correctly grasped in the first place.

Aristotle's discriminations between these different forms of exchange are not all of the same kind. They are not all discriminations between accidentally different ways of doing essentially the same thing, nor are they all discriminations between accidentally similar ways of doing things that are essentially different. He is discriminating in both ways at once. On the one hand he connects the different forms of exchange internally in a theoretical framework. the treatment consists partly in an analysis of the evolution of exchange relations over time through successive forms, which he sees as increasing in sophistication, and partly in an investigation of the nature of exchange value, which adds to that of ne 5. 5 by considering its effects on human thought and behaviour. On the other hand he subjects each form of exchange to an examination . . .

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