By Akerlof and Shiller
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Additional resources for Animal Spirits, Princeton
It is the opportunity for generating more surplus that drives business forward; ‘the pursuit of profit, and forever renewed profit’, as Max Weber puts it (Weber, 1981: 17). The critical source of surplus is derived from the different kinds of activities undertaken by business, from a money sum to a larger money sum through commodities, as Marx’s M-C-M’ formula so brilliantly schematises the repetitive, expansive metamorphosis through which accumulated surplus manifests itself. M stands for money, C for commodity, and M’ for money plus an increment, equating surplus value.
From the rise of the great world empire of Sargaon of Akkad (2500–2350 bc) to the fall of the Roman Empire in the West (ad 476), the historical record is filled with a bewildering profusion of empires and their rulers. How were the ruling regimes relating to the enterprisers of resource generating economic activities to realise their political objectives? We explore these relationships in five civilisations: Greek, Roman, Indian, Chinese and Arab, roughly covering about 15 centuries, from the five centuries before Christ to the end of the first millennium.
A hard-core pragmatic attitude came to govern the policy towards traders. Most of the historical evidence in this regard comes from Athens, where foreigners were the mainstay of trade and industry; they were the source of what Marx would call ‘merchant capital’. Though politically degraded, these metics were given several institutional safeguards——their private contracts were honoured, they were immune from reprisal in the case of unpaid debts or unsettled disputes and their persons and goods were protected.