The Conference in Perspective
From prehistoric times until a couple of centuries ago the institutions, conventions and arrangements that governed economic activity were static over long periods. The overwhelming prevalence of subsistence farming and crafts, the weak diffusion of information and slow technical progress (occasionally negative) promoted neither productive growth nor institutional adjustment to it. Social and political change was by contrast relatively rapid, whether one looks through Marx’s perspective of the supersession of one form of productive relations by another, or considers the spread of world religions — Buddhism, Christianity and Islam — or of empires — the Persian, Roman, Mongol, Iberian or British.
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