Summary: Now that the Marxist project of human transformation through the elimination of self-interest and markets stands thoroughly discredited, it is time to acknowledge Adam Smith as one of the most important social thinkers of modern times. Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, argued that a market economy was not only best able to meet the material needs of the people; it also provided a moral system which reli ...show moreed on human nature to create order and fairness. But Smith's intentions and conclusions, much maligned by his opponents on the left, have just as often been misunderstood by his conservative defenders. Counter to the popular impression that Smith was a champion of selfishness and greed, Jerry Z. Muller shows in this powerful and provocative work of historical reconstruction that Smith hoped to promote the welfare of society as a whole, and that he wrote The Wealth of Nations to warn of the dangers to the common good posed by organized mercantile interests. And contrary to those who believe that the naked pursuit of self-interest always leads to socially beneficial results, Smith maintained that government must intervene to counteract its negative effects. Smith's analysis went beyond economics to embrace a larger "civilizing project" designed to create a more decent society. The freedom made possible by a commercial society, Smith thought, would only be desirable when coupled with supporting institutions -- including the law, family, and religion -- which fostered the virtues of self-control and altruism that people need to manage their new liberty. He also explained how human passions could be harnessed to that goal. In doing so, he laid the ground for much of modern social science, as he explored the unanticipated consequences of social action, the social formation of conscience, and the linkages between social, political, and economic institutions. ...show lessEdition/Copyright: 93
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