A dispute arose in the 1890s between Karl Bücher and Eduard Meyer over the oikos thesis of Rodbertus published thirty years earlier (Harry Pearson 1957). Bücher supported Rodbertus’s idea that ancient Greek economy was organized on fundamentally different principles from those of contemporary German capitalism. These principles were based, following Xenophon and Aristotle, on household management. Meyer pointed to the existence of thoroughly modern capitalist firms in Athens and elsewhere producing for the international market. Max Weber (1922) put the lid on this argument by suggesting that we wouldn’t be interested in ancient Greece unless it was different and we could not understand it unless our knowledge was capable of embracing the Greeks as in some sense the same as us. This was the dialectical premise of Hegel and, before him, Kant – sameness in difference, not same versus different.


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