Altmann on the Limitations of Economic Analysis

“Ethics-related economics in the sense supported by Sen instead follows Aristotle (thus placing the discussion back in the Persian period!) in the concern for subordinating economics to the pursuit of the good of humankind. The difference lies in the purpose and aims of the discipline, especially in terms of what is defined as ‘good’: the increase of the ‘good of humanity’ or the increase of ‘overall wealth’. Both of these perspectives can have some bearing on my project. Ethics-related economics provides help in opening up the perspectives in the biblical texts, which are unquestionably concerned with ethics, especially when ethics is defined along the lines of ‘moral imagination’ or narrative ethics. When broadened to consider economics as an attempt to increase the ‘good of humanity’ along the lines of Aristotle, then the general purpose of economics is under debate. This is also the question that I submit is central for the focus on theological-communal economics in the book(s) of Ezra-Nehemiah, as well as in other Persian period biblical texts. They place the emphasis of their use of economic thinking and terminology in the framework of what is ‘good’ for the community. In terms of theology proper, the biblical texts consider specific economic roles for God. In terms of human economic practice and economic structures, Nehemiah describes various roles for economics that have negative of positive effects on the community, thus the question of what is ‘good’ for Judean society. What orthodox economics seem to assume is that ‘everything has its price’ and can, therefore, be commoditized in one way or another. It remains a question, however, to what extent such a view is reductionist of human society.” (19-20, italics original, bold added)

Peter Altmann, Economics in Persian-Period Biblical Texts: Their Interactions with Economic Developments in the Persian Period and Earlier Biblical Traditions (FAT 109; Tübigen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016).

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, exiled to the land of Phillies fans…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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