This book - which follows in the footsteps of its predecessors,
devoted, respectively, to political oaths and justice - is the end piece of
a wide-ranging opus in which Prodi has explored and explained an array of constituent
features of European civilisation, that is, the mental, social, economic, and
legal structures that have accompanied European society into modernity. This
text describes how the market established itself, starting in the Middle Ages,
as an autonomous locus for determining goods' values. The advent of the market
entailed shifts in the concepts of wealth and property and therefore in that
of theft, understood to be a violation of "fair prices" and market
rules. The creation of an economic power that was distinct from political power,
and that constantly interacts with the latter, allowed the rise not only of
industrial civilisation but also of constitutional freedoms and rights. With
its overview of a long history, this book offers the reader an opportunity to
reflect on the crisis into which our civilisation seems to have fallen irreversibly
Paolo Prodi is professor emeritus at the University of Bologna and president of the Central Board for Historical Studies.
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