Smith Adam


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Smith Adam

(1723-90) Scottish moral philosopher, best remembered for his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) in which, after a seminal account of the DIVISION OF LABOUR, he proposed that the individual pursuit of self-interest and the unimpeded operation of the market acted as an ‘invisible hand’ resulting in the achievement of the ‘common good’. A leading member of the SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT, and a visitor to France where he met with leading French social and economic thinkers, Smith wrote on many topics apart from economic issues: on morality, on politics, on law, on language. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1779) he suggested that ethical judgements depend on persons imagining themselves in the position of others and can also be illuminated by considering how an ideal impartial observer might judge right and wrong. Although widely associated with advocacy of the doctrine of LAISSEZ FAIRE, Smith was not blind to the adverse implications of the division of labour, noting its potentially stultifying and dehumanizing effect on workers. He allowed that people might well wish to seek to limit such effects, but he believed that in reality governments were likely to be driven by narrow interests. see also CLASSICAL ECONOMISTS.