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Behavioural economics and economic behaviour in classical Athens

Lewis, David


David Lewis


Mirko Canevaro

Ben Gray

Andrew Erskine

Josiah Ober


This article addresses the formalist-substantivist controversy in ancient economic history by bringing two new approaches to bear on it. On the one hand, it critiques the formalist approach (which relies on assumptions about economically rational behaviour) by examining critiques of neo-classical economics from the behaviouralist school. This shows that even modern economic actors are constrained in their capacity for rational behaviour by cognitive and emotional factors; a fortiori, we cannot expect Olympian rationality in antiquity. On the substantivist side, it reaffirms the importance of embeddedness, but uses Granovetter's view of embeddeness instead of Polanyi's. It also critiques the Finleyan reading of social values in ancient Greece that allegedly prevented economic growth and profit-oriented behaviour.


Lewis, D. (2018). Behavioural economics and economic behaviour in classical Athens. In B. Gray, M. Canevaro, A. Erskine, & J. Ober (Eds.), Ancient Greek history and contemporary social science. Edinburgh University Press

Acceptance Date Oct 7, 2016
Publication Date Jun 15, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 4, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 15, 2021
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Series Title Edinburgh Leventis studies
Book Title Ancient Greek history and contemporary social science
ISBN 9781474421775
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf