If we are to define civilisation as being a society with the higher degree of freedom made possible by a market economy, it must follow that all pre-money economies must be defined as barbarisms. This to some extent goes against the normal usage which talks of the Egyptian and the Minoan ‘civilisations’, but I feel that is it a not un-useful definition, so I describe them as being the ‘higher’ barbarisms.
These societies operated in a very different way to a market economy, so it is very useful to study them closely, to see how far their modes of operation differed from those of a market economy, and at the same time to see how some of these aspects still survive in market economies, and are indeed a useful, and possibly even essential part of market economies.
In the West there were three great higher barbarisms, in Egypt, in Mesopotamia and its surrounding countries, and in Minoan Crete and its offshoot in Mycenaean Greece. Other higher barbarisms developed independently in other parts of the world, notably in India. In America there were the Maya in Mesoamerica and the Incas in South America, none of whom developed money, so I do not consider them further here, though I have studied the Maya in particular with great interest.
All of them operated with many interesting similarities, but with significant differences from the civilisations of Greece and Rome. Here I examine two of these higher barbarisms, in Egypt, and Minoan Crete. There is also a section on the Bible, which is an interesting study of a society on the fringes of the great higher barbarisms.
There is also the very interesting case of China and its offshoots in Japan and Korea. China certainly used money and developed some aspects of the market economy but it differed in a number of significant ways and always depended on a strong centralising Emperor. We briefly look at China and to see how far it differed from the market economies that developed in the West.
We start with Egypt