Economy and Society


in Philosophy and Ideology in Hume's Political Thought

Published in print March 1984 | ISBN: 9780198246589
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681028 | DOI:
Economy and Society

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This chapter suggests that Hume's social attitudes ought to be understood in relation to the outlook of the 18th-century aristocracy. Hume's ideology was the ideology of an open and progressive aristocracy, which was willing to accept newcomers in its midst, and which was generally well-disposed towards improvement in agriculture and industry. It was neither an exclusive estate, nor a rising class trying to displace an established one, but a group whose privileged position lacked any formal legal basis. It was simultaneously liberal and conservative: receptive to intellectual and practical innovations, committed to personal freedom and the impartial rule of law, yet at the same time firmly attached to a ranked social order and to a political constitution that reflected and upheld that order. In this light we can understand, for example, how Hume could be committed both to the preservation of a social hierarchy and to an economic order that was largely free of political controls.

Keywords: Hume; social attitudes; aristocracy; social hierarchy; economic order

Chapter.  9403 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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