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After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy

by Murray Milgate and Shannon C Stimson Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 320 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Few issues are more central to our present predicaments than the relationship between economics and politics. In the century after Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations the British economy was transformed. After Adam Smith looks at how politics and political economy were articulated and altered. It considers how grand ideas about the connections between individual liberty, free markets, and social and economic justice sometimes attributed to Smith are as much the product of gradual modifications and changes wrought by later writers.

Thomas Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and other liberals, radicals, and reformers had a hand in conceptual transformations that culminated in the advent of neoclassical economics. The population problem, the declining importance of agriculture, the consequences of industrialisation, the structural characteristics of civil society, the role of the state in economic affairs, and the possible limits to progress were questions that underwent significant readjustments as the thinkers who confronted them in different times and circumstances reworked the framework of ideas advanced by Smith-transforming the dialogue between politics and political economy. By the end of the nineteenth century an industrialised and globalised market economy had firmly established itself. By exploring how questions Smith had originally grappled with were recast as the economy and the principles of political economy altered during the nineteenth century, this book demonstrates that we are as much the heirs of later images of Smith as we are of Smith himself.

Many writers helped shape different ways of thinking about economics and politics after Adam Smith. By ignoring their interventions we risk misreading our past-and also misusing it-when thinking about the choices at the interface of economics and politics that confront us today.

Preface vii

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 1

CHAPTER TWO: Adam Smith's Political Odyssey 10

CHAPTER THREE: The Rise and Fall of Civil Society 33

CHAPTER FOUR: Economic Life and Political Life 60

CHAPTER FIVE: The Economic Machine and the Invisible Hand 77

CHAPTER SIX: The Figure of Smith 97

CHAPTER SEVEN: Population and Political Economy 121

CHAPTER EIGHT: Utility, Property, and Political Participation 139

CHAPTER NINE: Economic Opinion on Parliamentary Reform 160

CHAPTER TEN: Utopias and Stationary States 186

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Labour Defended 217

CHAPTER TWELVE: Individual Liberty and the Liberty of Trade 237

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Two Critiques of Classical Political Economy 258

References 269

Index 299

This is an important, sound analysis of the interrelation between political and economic theory in the century after Adam Smith. . . . This book exemplifies the best contemporary work on the nexus of political and economic theory. -- Choice Milgate and Stimson produce a very careful and detailed analysis of early economists' ideas on issues shaping the modern concept of the political order, in the process displaying a rich array of competing ideas. . . . his book provides a striking perspective on classical political economy. The reader will benefit from some prior familiarity with Smith, Malthus, Ricardo and J. S. Mill, along with the Utilitarians. -- Donald Frey,
Murray Milgate is fellow at Queens' College, University of Cambridge. Shannon C. Stimson is professor of political science and the history of political thought at the University of California, Berkeley.