Adam Smith/’s Politics: An Essay in Historiographic Revision by Donald Winch

By Donald Winch

For many of the 2 hundred years or in order that have handed because the book of the Wealth of countries, Adam Smith's writings on political and financial questions were seen inside a liberal capitalist viewpoint of 19th- and 20th- century provenance. This essay in interpretation seeks to supply a extra old examining of yes political topics which recur in Smith's writings via bringing eighteenth-century views to undergo at the challenge. opposite to the view that sees Smith's paintings as marking the purpose at which 'politics' was once being eclipsed via 'economics', it claims that Smith has a 'politics' which fits past definite political attitudes hooked up with the function of the nation in financial affairs. It argues that he employs a constant mode of political research which can't be encompassed in the ordinary liberal capitalist different types, yet might be understood by way of connection with the language and characteristics of up to date political debate, and of the eighteenth-century technology of politics cultivated via Montesquieu and, certainly, Hume, fairly as published by means of fresh scholarship. A concluding bankruptcy attracts a few of the strands of the translation jointly to shape a portrait of what Smith may well legitimately be stated to were doing whilst he wrote on those concerns.

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By Donald Winch

For many of the 2 hundred years or in order that have handed because the book of the Wealth of countries, Adam Smith's writings on political and financial questions were seen inside a liberal capitalist viewpoint of 19th- and 20th- century provenance. This essay in interpretation seeks to supply a extra old examining of yes political topics which recur in Smith's writings via bringing eighteenth-century views to undergo at the challenge. opposite to the view that sees Smith's paintings as marking the purpose at which 'politics' was once being eclipsed via 'economics', it claims that Smith has a 'politics' which fits past definite political attitudes hooked up with the function of the nation in financial affairs. It argues that he employs a constant mode of political research which can't be encompassed in the ordinary liberal capitalist different types, yet might be understood by way of connection with the language and characteristics of up to date political debate, and of the eighteenth-century technology of politics cultivated via Montesquieu and, certainly, Hume, fairly as published by means of fresh scholarship. A concluding bankruptcy attracts a few of the strands of the translation jointly to shape a portrait of what Smith may well legitimately be stated to were doing whilst he wrote on those concerns.

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Fay, The World of Adam Smith, chapter 1; and the works by Hayek cited in the previous note. For less enthusiastic views of the closeness of intellectual relations between the two men see L. Robbins,' Hayek on Liberty', Economica, xxvm (1961), 66-81; and J. Viner, Guide to John Rae's Life of Adam Smith, pp. 23-33. 24 INTRODUCTION: THE PROBLEM new constitutions, but by enlightening the policy of actual legislators'. In what is possibly an oblique reference to recent events across the Channel, he also stated that the science demonstrated 'that the happiness of mankind depends, not on the share which the people possess, directly or indirectly, in the enactment of laws, but on the equity and expediency of the laws that are enacted'.

196-7. L/(B), p. 55; see also p. 274. 43 ADAM SMITH S POLITICS both aristocracy and democracy as republican forms of government, and the latter in equating monarchies and republics with the two psychological principles of political obligation, namely authority and utility, respectively.

2 1 2 D. Forbes, 'Sceptical Whiggism, Commerce and Liberty', in EAS, p. 180. For the full version of Buchan's testimony see the citation on p. 7 above. 1 The term 'republican' had acquired a fairly elastic meaning during the second half of the eighteenth century. For bolder spirits it might mean the replacement of the Crown by some kind of elected magistrate, while for others it simply denoted those who were opposed to specific policies or developments which appeared to be shifting the balance within the mixed constitution too heavily in favour of the monarchy.

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