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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.24 n.2 Pretoria  2011


Tracking an ancient Near Eastern economic system: The tributary mode of production and the temple-state



Gerald West

University of KwaZulu-Natal





Making sense of ancient economies requires careful attention to particular details as well as a consolidating model that combines the detail into a coherent form. While there is always the danger that economic models will over-determine the detail, models are useful heuristic devices. In this article a model that draws on Marxist economic analysis is assembled and then used to trace a geographically pervasive and historically enduring economic system in the ancient world, stretching from the Ancient Near East to Greco-Rome, and so underlying much of biblical history and story. The article argues that the model of a tributary mode of production, administered through a city-state political system, may also prove useful exegetically and ethically, enabling us to understand particular texts more "economically" and to provide important perspective to our present day economic decisions.



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Prof. Gerald West
Ujamaa Centre, School of Religion and Theology
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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