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(K)einer neuen Theorie wert?

Neues zur Antiken Wirtschaftsgeschichte anhand Dig. 50,11,2 (Callist. 3 cognit.)

Sven Günther

Pages 131 - 144

In the last two decades, the research field “Ancient Economy” has overcome the hundred- year controversy between primitivism and modernism due to lacks in both approaches regarding the interpretation of extant source material. Accompanying new methods, e. g. quantitative analysis of archaeological material or comparative studies between different pre-modern societies, the New Institutional Economics (NIE) seems to become the new all-in-one device and theory to analyze ancient economies. Indeed, the NIE apparently offers home to both former enemies, especially the primitivists with their idea of an “embedded” economy, by placing the ‚homo non iam rationalis‘ (!) within various concrete and abstract institutions which channel and navigate his economic decisions. However, the problem of how to analyze the literary sources for economic activities and discourses adequately remains, even in this new “orthodox” theory. Hence, the present author offers a new approach by applying the frame-analysis of E. Goffman to ancient source material. Thereby an author recognizes, reflects and creates regulation frames by and in his works to present (not only) economic ideas to his intended audience – and even tries to influence and change their existent frames of experience. A small passage in the Digests of Justinian (Dig. 50,11,2) shows clearly how, on three different levels (compilers of the Digests, the Severan jurist Callistratus, Plato in his Republic), these regulation frames were composed and adjusted to the specific needs of their time, even by changing totally the meaning of the original source (Plato’s Republic) which was used as a confirming authority.


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