The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics

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Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This authoritative and comprehensive reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant areas and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed but theoretically congruent ideas for the first time.
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Chapter 38: Plato (c. 427-349 BC)

Wolfgang Drechsler

Extract

38 Plato (c. 427-349 Wolfgang Drechsler BC) 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 at that, means to run the risk of letting the project of the present Companion appear ridiculous. First, it seems to cater to the clichk of letting everything begin with the ancient Greeks (‘Already Aristotle said.. .’), as an educatedbourgeois equivalent to the late Soviet praxis of having everything begin with Marx or Lenin (cf. Allik, 1992, p. 8). 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 coined the term to begin with in his Politiku) 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 20th century operates is indeed based on and still substantially determined by the ancient Greek one. Plato’s thought (as well as Platonism, although this is another matter; see Gadamer, 1993, p. 508) 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...

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