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Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 50: Plato (c. 427–349 BC)
Wolfgang Drechsler Introduction To let law and economics begin, not in the late 1950s in Chicago, but some 2300 years earlier in Athens (Athens, Greece, that is), and with Plato in particular, runs the risk of attracting a certain amount of derision. First, it seems to cater to the cliché of letting everything begin with the ancient Greeks (‘Already Aristotle has said …’), as an educated-bourgeois equivalent to the late Soviet praxis of having everything begin with Marx or Lenin. Second, Plato of all thinkers seems to be an odd choice as the founding father of the decidedly realist approach of law and economics, because it is his student Aristotle who is universally regarded as the ﬁrst economist (after all, he ﬁrst coined the term in his Politika) as well as the original realist. Plato, in contrast, has the image of an aristocratic abstract theorist, dwelling in a world of ideas. However, the mental framework within which Western (and, to a certain extent, global) civilization in the late twentieth century operates is indeed based on and still substantially determined by the ancient Greek one. Plato’s thought (as well as Platonism, although that is another matter) provides us with an original structure with which (rather than about which) we invariably still think. Second, the ‘real world’ as such, as well as its legal systems and its economies, are arguably actually Aristotelian, and there is good reason for recognizing in Plato the master of theory and ideas. Yet, Plato’s focus on praxis,...
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