A History of Political Economy

By John Kells Ingram | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
ANCIENT TIMES.

THE earliest surviving expressions of thought on economic subjects have come down to us from the Oriental theocracies. The general spirit of the corresponding type of social life consisted in taking imitation for the fundamental principle of education, and consolidating nascent civilisation by heredity of the different functions and professions, or even by a system of castes, hierarchically subordinated to each other according to the nature of their respective offices, under the common supreme direction of the sacerdotal caste. This last was charged with the traditional stock of conceptions, and their application for purposes of discipline. It sought to realise a complete regulation of human life in all its departments on the basis of this transmitted body of practical ideas. Conservation is the principal task of this social order, and its most remarkable quality is stability, which tends to degenerate into stagnation. But there can be no doubt that the useful arts were long, though slowly, progressive under this regime, from which they were inherited by the later civilisations,--the system of classes or castes maintaining the degree of division of labour which had been reached in those early periods. The leading members of the corporations which presided over the theocracies without doubt gave much earnest thought to the conduct of industry, which, unlike war, did not imperil their political pre-eminence by developing a rival class. But, conceiving life as a whole, and making its regulation their primary aim, they naturally considered most the social reactions which

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A History of Political Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface. v
  • Bibliographical Note. xiv
  • Contents xvii
  • Chapter I - Introductory. 1
  • Chapter II - Ancient Times. 7
  • Chapter III - The Middle Ages. 24
  • Chapter IV - Modern Times: First and Second Phases. 32
  • Chapter V - Third Modern Phase: System of Natural Liberty. 55
  • Chapter VI - The Historical School. 196
  • Chapter Vil - Conclusion. 240
  • Index 247
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