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An Economic Reading of the Exodus: On the Institutional Economic Reconstruction of Biblical Cooperation Failures

By Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto


In difference to Genesis, in Exodus interactions between Egypt and Israel broke down. The paper argues that Moses and pharaoh acted like “rational fools” when they escalated problems regarding industrial relations and common pool resources. Pluralism was not mastered as an interaction condition in cross-cultural, “inter-national” relations. The paper explores these issues through the concept of the prisoners' dilemma, in which mutual loss is the outcome. The unsuccessful ordering of economic institutions (governance structures, property rights arrangements, reward systems) is suggested as the key source of conflict. In this way, the paper develops the thesis that the Bible can be read as an economic text which instructs the organisation of human interactions in rational, economic terms. The exodus is not analysed in a more conventional, theological tradition as the resolution of conflict over religious values and the escape of Israel from a claimed system of slavery

Publisher: Routledge (Taylor & Francis)
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1080/09018320802185150
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