1st Edition

Adam Smith and Modernity 1723–2023

Edited By Alberto Burgio Copyright 2023

    This volume features 19 original chapters on Adam Smith’s conception of modernity. The contributions demonstrate the relevance of Smith as the great interpreter of modernity 250 years after the publication of The Wealth of Nations.

    The chapters in Part 1 focus on structural aspects of Smith’s work. They cover topics such as Smith as the theorist of a spontaneous order, the systematic dimension of Smith’s theoretical construction, and Smith’s role as a historian of economic thought. Part 2 addresses Smith’s conception of modern subjectivity between Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres, Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Wealth of Nations. Here the contributors consider the figure of the Smithian "merchant" and the importance of ridicule and satire for understanding modern civility, and comment on the role of sympathy, imagination, and moral judgement in developing a sense of self, the condition of the modern man in society, and the virtue of self-command. Part 3 focuses on the crucial question of the relationship between ethics and economics discussing the link between efficiency, equity and justice, the nature of Smith's theory of value, and the ethical connotation of Smith's critique. Part 4 deals with topics inherent to the functional dynamics and development process of the Smithian "commercial society." These topics include law and authority, the relationship between work and freedom, the parable of the "poor man's son," and the economic and political consequences of the new secular orthodoxy. Finally, the chapters in Part 5 explore themes related to history and the Smithian idea of progress. They focus on the link between trade and progress of civilization, Smith’s modern sociological vision of mass commercial societies, Smith's judgement on “savage” and premodern societies, and the controversial question of the immanentistic or providentialist perspective from which Smith considers both the social dynamics and the historical process.

    Adam Smith and Modernity will appeal to scholars and advanced students on 18th-century philosophy, the history of economic thought, and the history of social and political philosophy.

    The Order of Discourse 

    1. Adam Smith and Spontaneous Order Craig Smith 

    2. Systems, Love of System and Modernity Jean-Daniel Boyer 

    3. Adam Smith as a Historian of Economic Thought Fritz Söllner 

    The Virtues of Modern Man 

    4. Adam Smith on Self-command: Utility, Dignity, and Sympathy Ryan Patrick Hanley 

    5. The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: Irony, Laughter and Ridicule in Adam Smith Spyridon Tegos 

    6. Smith and Hume on Imagination and Sympathy Stefano Fiori 

    7. Adam Smith and the Creative Role of Imagination Keith Hankins and Brennan McDavid 

    8. Adam Smith on Natural Education and Moral Conscience Riccardo Bonfiglioli 

    Ethics and Economics 

    9. Adam Smith and a Theory of Just Efficiency María Alejandra Carrasco and Maria Pia Paganelli 

    10. The Ego-Alter-Tertius Paradigm: Adam Smith’s Interaction Model Eleonore Kalisch 

    11. Did Adam Smith Hold a Labour Theory of Value? Beaver and Deer Hunters in the Early State Jeffrey T. Young 

    12. Endogenous Ethics: Smith’s Real Contribution to the Enlightenment Amos Witztum 

    Theory and Critique of Commercial Society 

    13. The Poor Man’s Son: Deception in Adam Smith’s Case for Free Enterprise James R. Otteson 

    14. Whose Adam Smith? The Limits of Law’s Action Agustín José Menéndez 

    15. Work and Freedom in Adam Smith: Limits of Historical Experience Maria Luisa Pesante 

    The Problem of History 

    16. History Without Providence? Adam Smith – Historian and Critic of Modernity Alberto Burgio 

    17. Specialization and Commercial Modernity: Adam Smith as Sociologist Lisa Hill 

    18. Smith and the Savages in The Wealth of Nations, or the Anthropology of Political Economy Roberto Marchionatti 

    19. On the Nature and Causes of Trade and the Progress of Civilization Leonidas Montes


    Alberto Burgio is professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Bologna. He has written extensively on philosophical and political thinking from the 18th to the 20th centuries (Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Gramsci). He has published numerous papers in international journals and edited collections. Recent books include Gramsci. Il sistema in movimento (2014), Per Marx. Il sogno di una cosa (2018) and Crítica de la razón racista (2022).