Kenneth G Hirth

Grant Type

Workshop Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania State U.

Grant number

Gr. CONF-819

Approve Date

October 1, 2019

Project Title

Hirth, Kenneth (Pennsylvania State U.) "Comparative Study of Premodern Economies"

The workshop assembles a small, international and interdisciplinary group of scholars with deep knowledge of the premodern economies from twelve societies around the world. Increasingly refined methods of archaeology, history and ethnography, sustained investigations, and long-term perspectives have produced a profusion of knowledge about human economies that shape a remarkable empirical foundation. To mobilize this knowledge effectively requires our theoretical tools to be as sophisticated as our methodologies. For the twelve cases, workshop participants will discuss commonalities and differences in eight themes (production self-sufficiency, labor, property and inequality, commerce and marketplaces, specialization, mobilization and taxation, urban economy, and ritual economy). The goal is to understand the economic plasticity that structured past societal relations. Participating scholars represent different theoretical approaches including decision modeling, substantivism and political economy; however, all maintain a fundamentally eclectic understanding of how economic and social organizations interact. The objective is to formulate a new understanding of economy’s foundation role shaping relationships of resource dependency, sustainability, power relationships, and inequality. These are critical relationships in the past, but also for the future. We expect to show that economies are not determinant but suggest the rather flexible and creative options available for human social formations.