Can Marshall Plus Malthus Explain the Evolution of Ancient Societies? A Review of Economic Prehistory by Dow and Reed
Journal of Economic Literature (Forthcoming)
In a work of extraordinary scope and scholarship Dow and Reed deploy conventional microeconomic theory to explain “six transitions that shaped the world”, namely, the transitions to sedentism, farming, inequality, war, cities, and states. The models they offer provide a level of clarity about potential causal mechanisms that is unusual in the archaeological literature. But we are not convinced by some of their key empirical claims in light of current archaeological evidence, and we think that contemporary economics—including evolutionary game theory—has more appropriate models to offer than the Marshallian approach taken by the authors.