Friday, October 21, 2005

Two Seminars on Adam Smith

On the same day as my short talk on "Adam Smith's Lost Legacy" at the National Gallery, in Edinburgh, news of a seminar at John Hopkins University on another aspect of Adam Smith’s work:

In The John Hopkins University News-Letter

Wednesday, Oct. 26 4 p.m. Seminar in Political and Moral Thought -- "Adam Smith's Critique of International Trading Companies: Theorizing Globalization in the Age of Enlightenment" will be given by Sankar Muthu, Political Science Department of Princeton University.

From his book, Enlightenment and Empire (Princeton University Press), Sankar Muthu moves his focus beyond Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder, to consider Adam Smith’s work on ‘empire’, with particular reference to his robust critique of the East India Company and others. This looks to be a most fruitful area of research.

From the blurb to his book, a taster of its themes:

“In the late eighteenth century, an array of European political thinkers attacked the very foundations of imperialism, arguing passionately that empire-building was not only unworkable, costly, and dangerous, but manifestly unjust. Enlightenment against Empire is the first book devoted to the anti-imperialist political philosophies of an age often regarded as affirming imperial ambitions. Sankar Muthu argues that thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottfried Herder developed an understanding of humans as inherently cultural agents and therefore necessarily diverse. These thinkers rejected the conception of a culture-free "natural man." They held that moral judgments of superiority or inferiority could be made neither about entire peoples nor about many distinctive cultural institutions and practices.”


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