Studying the ancient world, or, the ethnocentrism of the London stockbroker

On the universal anachronism of studying the ancient world, it is one thing to rattle on about narratives of difference, false universals and the imperialism of neoclassical economics. It is another thing to put it this way:

It is gross ethnocentrism to assume that the monk, the feudal lord, the Inca priest-king, the commissar, and the Trobriand islander are directed in their material lives to abide by the same market rules that drive the London stockbroker and the Iowa wheat farmer (George Dalton, 1971).

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2 thoughts on “Studying the ancient world, or, the ethnocentrism of the London stockbroker

  1. Well, it seems to me to be gross ethnocentrism, if only because material lives are lived for something else, and what that something else is makes a difference to how they are lived. But I feel I am missing a point.

    1. Of course, I agree fully. Dalton’s target is ultimately what Fine and Milonakis (and others) describe as economics imperialism (in itself based on extraordinary reductionism). All human activity, in all dimensions, may be described in terms of “economic” mechanics. Good old homo economicus – who wouldn’t survive a day in the real world.

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