Polity and Economy

Paper $13
5" x 8", paperbound, portions originally published in 1957, notes, index

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Polity and Economy

With Further Thoughts on the Principles of Adam Smith Revised 2nd edition

Cropsey, Joseph

To perceive Adam Smith’s place in the stream of Enlightenment philosophy is to gain an indispensable insight into our own condition as denizens of the liberal capitalist society. Before Smith was the author of An Inquiry into the Nature andCauses of the Wealth of Nations, he was the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The earlier work establishes Smith unmistakably as among those thinkers who aspired to describe the human condition in terms of motivation, of cause and effect, thus in terms of the principles of nature itself, of nature as mechanism, not nature as edifying teleology. Precisely because morality was not to be traced to any homiletic beyond nature or to a volition with nature, the thinkers of the modern order assumed responsibility for locating the ground of true moral virtue within mechanical nature alone. And just as the locating of mankind within a remorseless system of cause and effect could be the reduction of humanity to the status of robotic slavery, it became the self-assigned task of the thinkers in question to demonstrate that the natural order was one not of etiological bondage but of freedom in an elevated sense.

The intention of Polity and Economy is to present Adam Smith as author of liberal capitalism, as propounder within an order that converts the natural self-preference of every living thing into an instrument of goodness, prosperity, and freedom – as long as our deployment of natural means does not, in the organization and conduct of society, violate the truths of nature itself.

This edition of Polity and Economy revises the original with cross-references from the standard Glasgow editions and adds two further essays not in the original: “Adam Smith and Political Philosophy” and “The Invisible Hand: Moral and Political Considerations.”