Before the Market
The Political Economy of Olympianism
Common Ground 2018
Did capitalism exist in ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy and western civilization? I was joined to discuss this and other issues with Donni Wang, the author of Before the Market: The Political Economy of Olympianism (Common Ground, 2018). The book is not a traditional book of economics as history and philosophy play a big role. Not surprisingly Donni studied Economics, at Berkeley, and Classics, at Stanford. She now holds a position in History at Shanghai University. Previous studies have applied quantitative models and social science methods to determine the extent of market activities and growth in ancient Greece. Before the Market, instead, employs techniques from the cultural-linguistic turn to examine economic matters. With this approach the author argues to be able to shed light on a new economic system—one that is vastly different from the market system. At the same time, the underlying theoretical framework that links culture, identity, and action also prompts a radical redefinition of state power, democracy, and community, resulting in a narrative of ancient Greece that is both more dynamic and complex than in conventional accounts and also more useful and relevant for today’s world. For the concerned reader, this book is laden with lessons and ideas for both envisioning wholesale economic transformation that is needed to address the problems of the 21st century as well as examples of specific practice that can be adopted. Concepts like the commons, collective knowledge, joint ownership, and gift exchange speak directly to a number of grass-roots movements that seek to embrace alternative ways of organizing economic life. In addition, Before the Market provides a reading of democracy politics that points the way forward to a truly tolerant, inclusive and egalitarian global order. A very interesting, erudite, sophisticated and provocative book worth reading.
Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.