Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture (Routledge by Gerda Reith

By Gerda Reith

This interesting and vast learn, enlivened via interviews with British and American gamblers, could be enchanting studying not only for these drawn to the cultural and social implications of playing - researchers in sociology, cultural stories and the background of principles - yet for somebody attracted to how we create that means in an more and more insecure international.

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Extra info for Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought, Number 22)

Example text

Slightly later the sense of risk as something linked with commercial exploits was made explicit. ’ And later still, we find it linked (as it often is today) specifically with insurance against commercial loss. In 1750, it is described as ‘A Contract or Agreement by which one or more Particulars… take on them the Risqué of the Value of the things insured’ (in The Oxford English Dictionary 1989, vol. 13, p. 987). In this new capitalising economy, as trade expanded into a system of international exchange, enumeration and accountancy became vital.

Van der Leeuw and Levy-Bruhl have drawn attention to the important (but often overlooked) point that in consulting the gods, enquirers frequently wanted to know not necessarily what would happen next, but whether or not what they wanted to happen would occur, repeating their questioning until they got the desired result (van der Leeuw 1967, p. 379; Levy-Bruhl 1966, p. 142). Here we see an essentially practical, even irreverent, orientation towards the still very serious matter of man’s relationship with destiny.

The impetus behind these anticipations of probability theory was intimately related to the development of a system of mercantile capitalism. A new merchant class were emerging, whose dynamic, entrepreneurial ventures shook the static hierarchy of the medieval ‘great chain of being’. This group were interested in matters of commerce: problems such as the distribution of goods in trade, the insurance of those goods and the likelihood of a journey being completed successfully. These were essentially numerical issues dealing with proportions, divisions and relative amounts: all problems intrinsic to probabilistic reasoning.

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