In 1377, a North African we know as Ibn Khaldûn (much longer Arab name) began a seven-volume history of the world, named (in translation) Book of Lessons and Archive of Early and Subsequent History, Dealing with Political Events Concerning Arabs, Non-Arabs, and Berbers, and with Their Contemporary Supreme Rulers. Ibn Khaldûn, born in 1332 in what is now Tunis in North Africa, did a superb job of describing the world he lived in, and perhaps more remarkably, modeled its dynamism. He believed the most prominent source of sociopolitical power lay in a society’s approach to group solidarity and collective action, so that the few who marshaled it better became the leaders, achieved prominence, and were able to establish dynasties. Then, Ibn Khaldûn wrote, “the dynasty collects the property of the subjects and spends it on its inner circle and on the men connected with it who are more influential by reason of their position than by reason of their property.�? Thus, “dynasty and government are the world’s market-place. All kinds of merchandise are found in the market and near it�? (Franz Rosenthal translation, 2005 Princeton University Press edition).
Clearly, the marketplace, or economics, are critical to the formation and functioning of societies. How to explain? And do it in a readable fashion…. This is what I was pondering as I held my mouth the right degree of open for the dental hygienist today….