Chrematistics

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Chrematistics (from Greek: χρηματιστική) according to Thales of Miletus is the art of getting rich.

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right)

Ancient Greece[edit]

Aristotle established the fundamental difference between economics and chrematistics. The accumulation of money itself is an unnatural activity that dehumanizes those who practice it. Like Plato, he condemns the accumulation of wealth. Trade exchanges money for goods and usury creates money from money. The merchant does not produce anything: both are reprehensible from the standpoint of their philosophical ethics.

According to Aristotle, the "necessary" chrematistic economy is licit if the sale of goods is made directly between the producer and buyer at the right price; it does not generate a value-added product. By contrast, it is illicit if the producer purchases for resale to consumers for a higher price, generating added value. The money must be only a medium of exchange and measure of value.

Middle Ages[edit]

The Catholic Church maintained this economic doctrine throughout the Middle Ages (Second Council of the Lateran,1139). Saint Thomas Aquinas accepted that capital accumulation if it served for virtuous purposes as charity.

Modern[edit]

Although Martin Luther raged against usury and extortion, according to Max Weber's study of capitalism and the Protestant ethic, frugality, sobriety, deferred consumption and saving were among the key values of the rising bourgeoisie in the age of the Reformation.

Karl Marx took up the concept in his famous work Das Kapital.

Further reading[edit]

  • AKTOUF, O. (1989): “Corporate Culture, the Catholic Ethic, and the Spirit of Capitalism: A Quebec Experience”, in Journal of Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism. Istambul, pp. 43–80.
  • BROADIE, S.; ROWE, C. (2002): Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics: Translation, Introduction, and Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • KRAUT, R. (ed.) (2006): The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • McLELLAN, D. (ed.) (2008): Capital (Karl Marx): An Abridged Edition. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks; Abridged edition.
  • PAKALUK, M. (2005): Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: An Introduction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • SCHEFOLD, B. (2002): “Reflections on the Past and Current State of the History of Economic Thought in Germany”, in History of Political Economy 34, Annual Supplement, pp. 125-136.
  • SHIPSIDE, S. (2009): Karl Marx's Das Kapital: A Modern-day Interpretation of a True Classic. Oxford: Infinite Ideas.
  • TANNER, S.J. (2001): The Councils of the Church. A Short History. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.
  • DALY, H. and COBB, J. (1984): 'For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future'. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • WARNE, C. (2007): Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: Reader's Guide. London: Continuum.