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Excerpt: "Before examining the biblical texts through the lens of Karl Polanyi’s paradigm of exchange, a review of the intellectual history of economic anthropology before the publication of The Great Transformation (1944) will help contextualize his methodological framework.1 Specifically, an awareness of two aspects of his theoretical development can facilitate its application to ancient Israel. First, Polanyi represents a seminal point in the midst of a long intellectual dialogue about political economy that goes back to Adam Smith. For over two centuries, this debate has been so spirited and intertwined that each scholar stands entangled with all of his or her opponents, supporters and revisionists. Simply stated, one can hardly understand Weber, without also understanding Ricardo, Mill, Marx and so forth. Second, many of the key figures throughout the development of economic theory, including Polanyi, did not develop their theories with any intent to explain the economies of antiquity. For Polanyi, the political climate of the Eastern European fascism motivated him to explore the connections between political systems and their economic activities. His earlier theories had a clear agenda in that he wanted to understand the trajectory of history that led to the present state of Hungary and the rest of Europe. Polanyi sought to apply his theories to the ancient world as a mere validation for the universality of his model. A more thorough review of the development of economic anthropology can highlight both of these aspects, and ultimately help to nuance the application of Polanyi’s paradigm to ancient Israel."


Originally published as chapter two of Portrayals of Economic Exchange in the Book of Kings, BRILL, 2012.