Glyn Davis reviews 'Poiesis' by Peter Acton

Glyn Davis reviews 'Poiesis' by Peter Acton

Poiesis: Manufacturing in Classical Athens

by by Peter Acton

Oxford University Press, $74 hb, 400 pp, 9780199335930

On what terms should we interrogate the past? Ancient life can seem essentially unknowable, a place where everything is different, glimpsed only in the words of those who lived then and surviving traces of material culture.

The Cambridge classical scholar Sir Moses Finley argued for an interpretation of ancient life bounded by then current civic and religious beliefs. Finley’s The Ancient Economy (1973) suggested that economic life in classical Greece and Rome was not distinct and separate, with its own language, but was tied intimately to social life. We err therefore by translating current notions of economic motivation to a world of slaves and gods, closeted women, and limited technology. The ancients did not dwell on capital formation, efficiency, or economic growth.

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Published in March 2015, no. 369
Glyn Davis

Glyn Davis

Glyn Davis is CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at ANU. Previously he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne (2005–18). His publications include The Australian Policy Handbook (Allen & Unwin, 2007) The Future of Australian Governance (Allen & Unwin, 2000), and Are You Being Served?: State, Citizens and Governance (Allen & Unwin, 2001). His recent Boyer Lectures are now available: The Republic of Learning (ABC Books).

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