Friday, August 20, 2010

After Nicholas Phillipson' New Book, No Excuse For Ignorance of Adam Smith's Legacy

Bill Dunlop reviews a talk by Nicholas Phillipson given at the Edinburgh International Festival on 19 August HERE

'A New Look At The Ideas Of The Founder Of Modern Economics’

"The Wealth of Nations" has never been out of publication since it first appeared some two hundred and thirty years ago… Phillipson points out that until early in the previous century, Smith’s work was not regarded as a defence of capitalism, far less as a tract for libertarianism…

… He explains commerce as an extension of language, created to facilitate exchange between strangers, and thus part of the foundation of trust enabling the "good society" to progress. Smith’s humans are frail animals, subject to the savage natural world around them, compelled to co-operation for survival and thereby to association with and trust of their fellows…

The discovery of extensive notes from Smith’s University of Glasgow lectures on Rhetoric and Jurisprudence offer a glimpse of Smith not only as teacher but as thinking through other aspects of his theory which have not survived in other forms.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that the phrase "the invisible hand", beloved of free-market economists, appears but three times in Smith’s work; as a close friend of the intellectually rigourous atheist David Hume, Smith’s own views were likely similar, but living with his mother in douce Kirkcaldy whilst writing The Wealth of Nations, he may well have felt a need to appear to conform to something close to conventional piety.’

Follow the link.

Bill Dunlop's review is remarkably clear at explaining key point about Adam Smith's works and this is a credit to the Book Festival's organisers' choice of reviewer - no mere hack could produce such an erudite understanding of Nicholson Phillipson's purpose.

'Tis a pity, as David Hume would have put it, that so many modern economists, tenured, well-paid and highly regarded by their peers, have not taken the trouble to read Adam Smith and learn something about what he actually wrote and its context.

Now that Nicholas Phillipson's book, Adam Smith: an enlightened life (Allen Lane, London) is available they will have no excuse for their various atrocities to Adam Smith's legacy.



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