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Honor Among Thieves examines associations of craftsmen in the framework of ancient economics and transaction costs. Scholars have long viewed such associations primarily as social or religious groups that provided mutual support, proper burial, and sociability, and spaces where nonelite individuals could seek status supposedly denied them in their contemporary society. However, the analysis presented here concentrates on how craftsmen, merchants, and associations interacted with each other and with elite and nonelite constituencies; managed economic, political, social, and legal activities; represented their concerns to the authorities; and acquired and used social capital—a new and important view of these economic engines.
Philip F. Venticinque offers a study of associations from a social, economic, and legal point of view, and in the process examines how they helped their members overcome high transaction costs—the “costs of doing business”—through the development of social capital. He explores associations from the “bottom up,” in order to see how their members create status and reputation outside of an elite framework. He thus explores how occupations regarded as thieves in elite ideology create their own systems of honor.
Honor Among Thieves will be of interest to scholars of the ancient economy, of social groups, and Roman Egypt in all periods.