A dazzlingly original, "remarkable" account of the life and thought of legendary economist Adam Smith (Financial Times).
Adam Smith (1723-1790) is now widely regarded as the greatest economist of all time. But what he really thought, and the implications of his ideas, remain fiercely contested. Was he an eloquent advocate of capitalism and individual freedom? A prime mover of "market fundamentalism"? An apologist for human selfishness? Or something else entirely?
In the tradition of The Worldly Philosophers, Adam Smith dispels the myths and caricatures, and provides a far more complex portrait of the man. Offering a highly engaging account of Smith's life and times, political philosopher Jesse Norman explores his work as a whole and traces his influence over two centuries to the present day. Finally, he shows how a proper understanding of Smith can help us address the problems of modern capitalism. The Smith who emerges from this book is not only the greatest of all economists but a pioneering theorist of moral philosophy, culture, and society.
Norman (Edmund Burke: The First Conservative) takes aim at the carapace of myth that obscures the real legacy of Smith, the Scottish thinker whose Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776, outlined the functioning of a modern market economy. Too often, Norman argues, Smith has been wrongly seen as the progenitor of laissez-faire capitalism, an economic libertarian, and a misogynist whose careful calculations of supply and demand leave no room for the hidden household labor of women. To counter this vision of the boy from Kirkcaldy as a market fundamentalist, Norman provides a thoughtful and accessible overview of Smith's work interspersed with historical context on the Scottish Enlightenment. He argues convincingly that Smith's greatest insight was his notion of mutual sympathy, the human ability to imagine ourselves in the place of others and thus reflect in turn on our own behavior, and it is this reciprocal vision of social interaction, rather than the narrow self-interest typically associated with Smith, that is the true basis for market exchange. Indeed, Smith was more interested in morals than money and would have condemned the crony capitalism and income inequality that dominate contemporary economic life. This is a stimulating introduction to an often misunderstood figure in the history of economic thought.