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 Max Weber “The social Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization” In, The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations (1976)

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Presentation on theme: " Max Weber “The social Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization” In, The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations (1976)"— Presentation transcript:

1  Max Weber “The social Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization” In, The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations (1976)

2 Brief introduction  First published in an Encyclopedia under the title Agrarian Conditions in Antiquity in 1909  Translated in English by R.I. Franck in 1976, who changed the title to The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations because of the sociological nature of the book  Weber’s essay on the ‘Social causes of the decline of Ancient civilization’ is a classical illustration of socio-structural analysis

3 Text Summary: of the decline…  Careful analysis and interpretation of historical primary sources leads Weber to identify typical characteristics of the civilisation of Antiquity  Oikos theory  It is urban, coastal and based upon slavery  Slave enterprises produce for the market after meeting their own needs: the slave owner has the capacity to develop production based on division of labour  The expansion of trade “increased the growth of oikoi (…) based on unfree labour (…)” (p. 394)

4 Summary (continues)  Unsustainable economic structure: dependent on regular supply of slaves, which eventually stopped  turning point in the development of ancient civilisation  No slaves hunt, so slaves allowed to have property and families and children who become slaves  slaves are now more like unfree serf servicing owner’s land  It is thus impossible to maintain market production on the estates, which became more and more self-sufficient  “The later Empire has all the characteristics of a medieval manor.” (p.403)

5 Meaning of the text  Weber interprets history  Idea: interpretation of action in terms of its subjective meaning should be united with and balanced by the interpretation of history  Weber gives the world a subjective meaning  The analysis of the decline of ancient civilisation is based on the limits slave production sets for capitalist development

6 Meaning (continues)  Tendency: thinking Weber emphasizes agency over structure, idealism against materialism  In fact, Weber goes beyond these dichotomies: they are not mutually excluding categories  Weber’s contribution to sociology = multi-causal approach  Subjective meaning of action within a cultural context of meaning

7 Conclusion  Weber’s historical sociology is not a grand theory of history unlike Marx’s historical materialism  Weber interprets history  Multi-causal approach to analysis to correct the one- sidedness of materialist approach to social change  Thank you

8 Bibliography  Max Weber, “The Social Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization” in, The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations (NLB, 1976)  Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology (Open Books, 1982)  Gerard Delanty & Engin Isin, Handbook of Historical Sociology (London: Sage, 2003)  Jonathan Wiener, “Max Weber’s Marxism: Theory and Method in ‘The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations”, Theory and Society, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp


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