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Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science$
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Mirko Canevaro, Andrew Erskine, Benjamin Gray, and Josiah Ober

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474421775

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421775.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 24 July 2021

Behavioural Economics and Economic Behaviour in Classical Athens

Behavioural Economics and Economic Behaviour in Classical Athens

(p.15) 1 Behavioural Economics and Economic Behaviour in Classical Athens
Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science

David Lewis

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter analyses the motivations of economic actors in classical Athens from the point of view of modern behavioural economics. The (now) old orthodoxy of M.I. Finley, drawing on Bücher and Weber, stressed that the so‐ called homo economicus did not exist until recent times: in antiquity, an anti‐productive mentality was essentially hard‐wired into the minds of elite Greeks and Romans, preventing economic development. This approach has been widely rejected in recent years, and in particular the methods of New Institutional Economics (NIE) have provided a way around the moribund formalist‐primitivist debate. Yet whilst NIE has provided a set of important analytical tools, it would be an exaggeration to claim that these tools can solve every problem relating to economic activity in antiquity; here, the insights of behavioural economics can assist us in understanding economic activity in past societies.

Keywords:   Greek economic history, homo oeconomicus, substantivism, New Institutional Economics

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