Re: evolution of the market economy

Ilfryn PRICE (
Thu, 21 Jan 1999 09:01:07 -0000

From: (Ilfryn PRICE)
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 09:01:07 -0000
Subject: Re: evolution of the market economy,Internet writes:
>A friend of mine who is an archaeologist recently asked me whether I knew
>anything about the memetic evolution (and
>origin) of the concept of the market economy.
>He said that perhaps the earliest known example is from 830 AD in a place
>called Hamwick, which is now modern day
>Southampton. Here was the first transition from a Class B emporium to a Market
>Town (whatever). It sounds rather like
>someone deliberately set up something like a modern day stock exchange. This
>apparently in turn meant that people
>came from far and wide to sell their wares (a bit like commodities) and certain
>"channels" (I suppose like incipient trade
>routes) sprang up joining places as far afield as Copenhagen and even further
>into Northern Germany.
>He thought this was where a memeticist would come in handy, to study how the
>phenomenon spread. My initial answer
>was that, regrettably, memetics probably hadn't come far enough yet to actually
>start historical analysis. I did point him
>in the direction of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, but I don't know how
>much that will help. Does anyone
>have any answers?

I suspect your friend is describing the first post roman british example of a
more general emergent phenomenon - the self-organisation of a different level
of order when a critical density of interconnection is reached. If said friend
is not familiar with complexity I would suggest (s)he looks at Waldrop's or
Lewin's books as starters. or Kauffmans 'At home in the universe'. There is
starting to be interesting modelling work (e.g. Allen from Cranfield) looking
at such phenomena.

The (or a) memetic enquiry in the Hanwick case or any other, is then to ask
what 'pattern' of shared language / rules emerged to enable that particular
market system to function and what wealth (negative entropy) was thereby
created (see chapter 9 of my book).

A more general line of enquiry is to consider 'money' as a meme. It evolves
whenever the niche of a trading space presents itself, becomes part of the
pattern that enables a market economy but, arguably, limits when it parasitises
that economy. (Crockett's) 1973 book 'Money' springs to mind.

If this is a genuine academic inquiry your fiend is welcome to email me 'off


If Price
Facilities Management Graduate Centre
Sheffield Hallam University
Unit 7, Science Park, Sheffield S1 1WB
P +44 [0]114 225 4032
F +44 [0]114 225 4038

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