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Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

Iain McLean

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780748623525
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672110 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623525.001.0001
Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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This book aims to show that Adam Smith (1723–90), the author of Inquiry into…the Wealth of Nations, was not the promoter of ruthless laissez-faire capitalism that is still frequently depicted. His ‘right-wing’ reputation was sealed after his death, when it was not safe to claim that an author may have influenced the French revolutionaries. But as the author also of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which he probably regarded as his more important book, Smith sought a non-religious grounding for morals, and found it in the principle of sympathy, which should lead an impartial spectator to understand others' problems. The book locates Smith in the Scottish Enlightenment; shows how the two books are perfectly consistent with one another; traces Smith's influence in France and the United States; and draws out the lessons that Smith can teach policy makers in the twenty-first century. Although Smith was not a religious man, he was a very acute sociologist of religion. The book accordingly explains the Scottish religious context of Smith's time, which was, as it remains, very different to the English religious context. The whole book is shot through with an affection for Edinburgh, and for the Scottish Enlightenment. It begins and ends with poems by Smith's great admirer, Robert Burns.

Keywords: Adam Smith; Wealth of Nations; laissez-faire capitalism; French revolutionaries; Moral Sentiments; morals; principle of sympathy; Scottish Enlightenment; policy makers; sociologist of religion

Book.  192 pages. 

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Table of Contents

The Life of an Absent-minded Professor in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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A Weak State and a Weak Church in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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The Invisible Hand and the Helping Hand in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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The French and American Smiths in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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Adam Smith Today in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

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