Keynote Address

Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith
Amartya Sen

1 When Adam Smith died in Edinburgh in July 1790, the reputation of the Scottish philosopher and economist was more secure in France than it was in England. Smith’s ideas were often invoked by revolutionary authors across the Channel (such as the Marquis de Condorcet), and there can be little doubt that he was a very established figure in French intellec­ tual circles. To be sure, Smith’s writings were well known in England as well, and even his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, had been widely read there, and indeed as David Hume wrote to Smith from London shortly after the publication of the book, “The Public seem disposed to applaud [your book] extremely” (quoted in Raphael and Macfie 1976, 25). However, while the French admirers of Smith’s radical thoughts were already in some kind of an equilibrium about what his views were, the English image, which would emerge later, of a deeply conserva­ tive Smith, a mouthpiece for the unalloyed virtues of the market (allegedly articulated in his second book, The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776), had hardly been initiated. That image would emerge and become the stan­ dard view of Smith only in the decades following Smith’s death.
It is a great privilege for me to have the opportunity of speaking in celebration of Craufurd Goodwin’s remarkable leadership over four decades in editing the History of Political Economy and in making it such an admirable academic journal. History of Political Economy 43:2 DOI 10.1215/00182702-1257388 Copyright 2011 by Duke University Press

play their part 1.1 Bentham may have missed the force of Smith’s reasoning on this subject (indeed I believe he certainly did that). in turn. and he took Smith to task in a long letter he wrote to the father of modern economics.258 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) Even in 1787. It remains the standard understanding of Smith today in mainstream eco­ nomic textbooks and in daily newspapers (despite protests from serious Smith scholars). as a politi­ cal spokesperson for simple slogans—mostly free­market slogans—rather than as one of the finest authors of sophisticated theories of societies and economies. . Bentham included this letter in the second of the two prefaces he wrote for the second edition of his combative defense of the market economy against regulations that restrain usury: Defence of Usury. would solidify in the century after Smith’s death. which has been the source of so much abuse of Smith’s ideas. however. That distorted image of Smith. and it came to be canonized in the twentieth century. Before long. making Smith an uncomplicated champion of pure market­based capitalism—would be achieved in the world of imagination in the centu­ ries to follow through faulty analysis of Smith’s works. without being hostile to the impor­ tant roles of other institutions. Jeremy Bentham grumbled about Smith’s inability to see all the virtues of the market econ­ omy. 2 Abuses of Adam Smith are at least as prevalent today as the uses of his balanced argument for supporting a society with multiple institutions in which the market would play its part. but his diagnosis that Smith was skeptical of the pure market economy was not mistaken. only three years before Smith’s death. including severely selective citations. What Bentham had failed to do through arguing with Smith—that is. In Smith’s analysis those other—nonmarket—institutions can. Smith would emerge in the image in which he is mostly seen in standard views today. including those of the state. arguing that the Glaswegian should leave the market alone rather than criticize it for its inability to control those whom Smith called “prodigals and projectors” and that Smith should give up support­ ing state regulation of financial transactions. whose skepticism about markets was as firmly based as his insistence on the recognition of those good things that the markets do— and markets alone can do.

of course. and the contri­ bution that The Wealth of Nations made to the understanding of this part of economics. the self-sufficiency— and the self­regulatory nature—of the market economy. would present later . in addition to doing something to regu­ late the market to the extent that it requires regulation. first. and third. To acknowledge this achievement has to be a part of the rec­ ognition of the great use that Smith’s ideas continue to have—even in the contemporary world. However. Smith showed how the freeing of trade can very often be extremely successful in gener­ ating overall economic prosperity through specialization in production and division of labor and in making good use of economies of large scale. its negative sides were also becoming clear—to Adam Smith himself. be presented in favor of each of these claims. The three lessons that are drawn by the champions of profit-based mar­ ket capitalism from their reading of Smith are. among others. but more importantly there is nothing in his writings that would indicate that he believed in the self-sufficiency of the market econ­ omy.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 259 in. even as the positive contributions of capitalism through mar­ ket processes and the profit motive were being clarified and explicated. providing public goods like basic education and offering economic support for the poor. The economic analyses that followed those early expositions of markets and capitals in the eigh­ teenth century have succeeded in solidly establishing a good understand­ ing of the rationale of the market system in the corpus of mainstream economics. and he explained why and how that dynamism worked. Let me con­ sider each of these wrong attributions in turn. While a number of socialist critics. was absolutely monumental. It is certainly true that Smith showed the usefulness and dynamism of the market economy in The Wealth of Nations in a way that had not been done by anyone earlier. Arguments can. second. Those lessons remain deeply relevant even today. the ade­ quacy of the profit motive as the basis of rational behavior. and what is impor­ tant here—in the context of the subject of this lecture—is not so much to note that these arguments are hard to sustain (although that is indeed the case). Smith’s causal investigation provided an illuminating diagnosis of the rationale of the market economy just when a much extended market system and its evident vitality were powerfully emerging. the adequacy of self­interest as socially productive behavior. for example. Adam Smith never used the expression capitalism. as far as I have been able to find. most notably Karl Marx. but to recognize that those arguments are not Smith’s.

On a comparison of the text of his compendium.” Indeed. and the opposite view.” This. Consider Smith’s analysis of the promoters of excessive risk in search of profits. a cheat. Marx (1992. Jonathan Swift’s unflattering portrayal of “projectors” in Gulliver’s Travels. of course. even to Adam Smith—the trailblazing exponent of the rationale of the market economy—the huge limitations of relying entirely on the market economy and only on the profit motive were absolutely clear. For example. by “projector” Smith did not mean those who “form a project. and yet given Smith’s skepticism of the market it is not as incredible a thought as it would appear today to those reared in the contemporary mischaracteri­ zation of Smith as a great believer in no­nonsense capitalism. Smith’s use of these terms was entirely pejorative. meaning. Given that con­ viction. “Principles of Political Economy. I should note here.260 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) on the case for censuring and ultimately supplanting capitalism. The revolutionary Marx’s claim to be the true disciple of the allegedly conservative Smith does. for the Adam Smith he announced himself to be. of whom Marx thought rather little. by the way. pub­ . or that of the public. as a matter of some historical interest. apparently common from 1616 (so I gather from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). who took him in good faith. with his usual eclectic logic. of Kars [who failed to defend his fortress when it was attacked by the Russians in 1855]. in which preface he announces himself as the Adam Smith of his day—we do not know whether to admire more the simplic­ ity of the man. it is perhaps not surprising that Marx was very dismissive when John Stuart Mill.” with his preface to the first edition. “a promoter of bubble companies.” but meant it specifically in its derogatory sense. James Mill [a close follower of Jeremy Bentham]. whom he called “prodigals and projectors. understands how to hold at the same time the view of his father. to the Duke of Wellington. a speculator. 33) wrote bitingly against what he saw as Mill’s pretensions: John Stuart Mill. call for critical scrutiny. that Marx was a deep admirer of Smith and saw himself as someone who followed and further developed the analysis that Smith had started. although he bears almost as much resemblance to Adam Smith as say General Williams. among other things. claimed to be a fol­ lower of Smith. is quite a good description of the dodgy entrepreneurs of credit swap insur­ ances and subprime mortgages in the recent economic crisis. 221 n.

356–57) warned. 4. and he gave no real evidence of changing his mind on this subject. Unwavering faith in the wisdom of the stand-alone market economy. introduction. paras. that Smith’s views on this had become “at present the same as mine. bk.” Smith knew the distinction between innovating and projecting well enough. 14–15. 2. among other things. bk. Vol. with little evidence. . Smith saw the task of political economy as the pursuit of “two distinct objects”: “first. furthermore. Bentham did not manage to persuade Smith to change his mind on this indictment. and on one occasion convinced himself. and thrown into those which were most likely to waste and destroy it. chap. to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the pub­ lick services” (428).”3 3 There is. I draw here on Professor Giorgio Basevi’s work on these parallels. As it happened. even though Bentham kept on hoping to do just that. and secondly.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 261 lished in 1726 (fifty years before The Wealth of Nations). that those whom Smith called “projec­ tors” were also the innovators and pioneers of economic progress.4 Smith saw the role of the state to include adequate 2. 3. much more in Smith’s analysis on the role of the state in regulating markets. relying entirely on an unregulated market economy can easily pave the way for “a great part of the capital of the country” being “kept out of the hands which were most likely to make a profitable and advanta­ geous use of it. 1. or more properly to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves. which is largely responsible for the removal of the established regulations in the United States. Vol. Bentham maintained. Now more than two centuries later. 4. corresponds closely enough to Smith’s deployment of that word.2 In arguing against Smith’s critique of the market economy. 1. As Smith ([1776] 1976. to provide a plentiful reve­ nue or subsistence for the people. 1. para. 4. tended to assume away the activities of prodigals and projectors in a way that would have shocked the pioneering exponent of the rationale of the market economy. the distinction remains sadly relevant as we try to understand the nature and causation of the crisis that has hit the world of finance.

even in dealing with regulations that restrain the markets. Indeed. 6. a great deal more than self-interest and selfish­ ness can—and does—comes into Smith’s investigation. Smith did not. (356–57)5 Underlying the plural institutional structure that Smith proposes is not only Smith’s skepticism of the reach of the market. first perceptions may also change in response to critical examination.6 5.” Furthermore. Vol. 377) noted. for example on the basis of causal empirical investigation that may show. 61. of course. he thought the Poor Laws needed reform. such as free education. Smith saw the case for interventions in the interest of the poor and the underdogs of society. See Rothschild 2001. 4 I turn now to the second issue—the misinterpretation of Smith’s view on the demands of rationality in human behavior. Unlike Malthus. 1. but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters. that a certain “object is the means of obtaining some other. But he did think that even our instinctive reactions to particular conduct cannot but rely— if only implicitly—on our reasoned understanding of causal connec­ tions between conduct and consequences in “a vast variety of instances. therefore. is in favour of the workmen. Smith ([1790] 2009. in particu­ lar through allowing greater freedom. Smith was deeply concerned about the ine­ quality and poverty that might survive in an otherwise successful market economy.” And in the pursuit of reasoning (and this is the central issue here). but his attempt to marry state intervention with the pursuit of the interests of the poor. 1. and to arrange poverty relief. para. and he did give much room for emotions and sentiments in the narrower sense (although perhaps not as much as David Hume did). pt. At one stage he gives a formula of disarming simplicity: When the regulation. it is always just and equitable. 10. chap. Smith did not reject the rationale of the Poor Laws. bk. than the rather punitive Poor Laws provided. . Going beyond his investigation of the demands of a well­ functioning market system. particularly of locational move­ ment for the indigent who receive support. argue that rational thinking is the basis of all our actions.262 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) provision of public services. Rather. 2.

from our own natural station. and a whole generation of rational choice political analysts and of experts in so­called law and economics have been cheerfully practicing the same narrow art. the alleged views of Smith. . 8. unless we remove ourselves. Following that odd presumption in modern economics. There is no room in this “as if Smith” for generosity. But we can do this in no other way than 7. A great many economists were— and some still are—evidently quite enchanted by something that has come to be called “rational choice theory” in which rationality is identified with intelligently pursuing only one’s self-interest. 1987. in fact. have invaded neighboring disciplines as well.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 263 Misinterpretation of Smith’s analysis of reasons for action has been a rampant feature of twentieth­century economics. of which. as it were. As Smith ([1759] 2010. in this theory. and render their happiness necessary to him. and 2010a. and he makes particular use of his thought­experiment of the impartial spectator as a device for reasoned self­scrutiny. there are evidently some principles in his nature. in two well­known and forcefully argued papers. See Stigler [1971] 1975. with the following sentence: “How selfish soever man may be supposed. reasoning human beings are perfectly capable. For example. this can be rational. 13).8 The Theory of Moral Sentiments opens. we can never form any judgment concerning them. 176. which interest him in the fortune of others. it is clear that Adam Smith has had much smallness thrust upon him. though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it” ([1759] 2010. he thought. and endeavour to view them as at a certain distance from us. only if you get something from it yourself. esp. or public spirit—values the reasonableness of which Smith discussed in considerable detail in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. 133) put it: We can never survey our own sentiments and motives. If you do something for any­ one else. 237. the famous Chicago economist George Stigler has presented his “self­interest theory” (including the belief that “self­interest dominates the majority of men”) as being “on Smithian lines. or social commitment. esp. and Stigler 1981. I have argued elsewhere that while some men are born small and some achieve smallness. even though entirely implanted. This issue of misinterpretation is more fully discussed in Sen 1986.”7 Stigler was not really alone or idiosyncratic in that diagnosis—this is indeed the standard view of Smith that has been powerfully promoted by many writers who constantly invoke Smith to support their belief in the unique rationality of the profit motive. Smith’s analy­ sis is further developed as the book proceeds.

which is at the heart of rationality. separating out “sympathy.” “public spirit. has a big role in preventing us from being consciously self­centered or unconsciously uncaring. 5 I turn now to the third issue: does this kind of broadening exercise help in building a good society. There is nothing much in common between Adam Smith and the champions of rational choice theorists. and yet all of which have the implication of taking people away from selfish pursuit of their own interests.” and other motivations. It is not only that this is a false attribution. including a well­functioning market economy? And here we run into a further misinterpretation of Smith about human behavior.264 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) by endeavouring to view them with the eyes of other people. but the critics of the narrowness of rational choice theory can add to the force of their arguments through making use of the subtle distinctions that Smith makes of the different kinds of motivations that can influence human reasoning and move people’s choices and deci­ sions away from the single­minded pursuit of self­interest. the mistaken interpretation of Smith is so common now that even those who argue against modeling human beings on the lines of rational choice theory often describe their enterprise as a rejection of Smithian understanding of human reasoning and choice.” “generosity. each of which differs from the others. in particular about the kind of behavior that is needed for a flourishing market economy. Smith distinguishes with great sophistication the different kinds of rea­ sons people have in taking an interest in the lives of others. . for making the soci­ ety good or acceptable. However. despite their inclination to invoke Smith as their guru. or as other people are likely to view them. He dis­ cusses how reasoning. and going beyond that. The question that remains is this: how could Smith’s unambiguous emphasis on the need for going beyond self­interest and what he called “self­love” have been so comprehensively neglected in a large number of economic treatises and textbooks? One reason for this neglect is a confusion between seeing the adequacy of self­interest in explaining a very narrow phenomenon—what motivates trade and people’s inclination to participate in exchange—and in providing an understand­ ing of the broader problem of what is needed for a good society. including proper functioning of the market economy.

and the baker want to get our money in exchange for the meat. in the Moral Sentiments. and we do not have to be committed altruists to find reasons to seek such exchange. The nature of the present economic crisis illustrates very clearly the need for departures from unmitigated and unrestrained self­seeking in order to have a decent society: even John McCain. In his most famous and widely quoted passage from The Wealth of Nations (very widely cited in mainstream economics as well as in law and economics.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 265 In answer to the first—and the very limited—question about the rea­ sons for seeking trade. This is a fine point about motivation for trade—interesting in itself—but it is not a claim about the adequacy of self­seeking for the success of a society or even of the market economy.” “humanity. 2. including mutual trust and confidence. . and we—the consumers— want their meat. and in ratio­ nal choice politics). 9. chap. and public spirit. but from their regard to their own interest. para. The exchange benefits us all. the most recent Repub­ lican presidential candidate in the United States. in addition to what we already knew from past studies of the adversity of motivational narrowness. Vol. there is much evidence that has emerged powerfully in recent years in that direction. Successful mar­ ket economies demand a variety of values. 26–27) wrote: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher. 1. and even the successful operation of the market economy demands more than self­love. the beer. 2. bk. and bread and are ready to pay for them with our money. generosity. For example. justice. or the baker that we expect our dinner. Smith ([1759] 2010. beer. not to their humanity but to their self­love.9 The butcher. We address ourselves. are the qualities most useful to others. complained constantly of “the greed of Wall Street” in his campaign speeches in the summer of 2008. the brewer. 221) argues that while “prudence” is “of all virtues that which is most helpful to the individual.” The working of a society goes much beyond the motivation for seeking trade. Indeed. 1. the brewer. Smith famously observed that to explain the moti­ vation for economic exchange in the market we do not have to invoke any objective other than the pursuit of self-interest. Smith ([1776] 1976. In the rest of Smith’s writings there are extensive discussions of the constructive role of other motivations that influence human action and behavior. and the bread they make.

I believe. and relative deprivation that might remain despite a well-functioning market economy. bk.” 10.266 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) In The Wealth of Nations. unfairly neglected in the literature of moral and political phi­ losophy. ([1776] 1976. Even though the champions of the baker­brewer­butcher reading of Smith. from the confidence that such money can at any time be had for them. the devastat­ ing consequences of mistrust and mutual confidence would not have appeared puzzling to Adam Smith. I have argued in a recent book. chap. probity. 292)10 Smith discussed why such confidence need not always exist. . brewers. but have far less opportunity to sell their wares). Smith illustrated his point with various exam­ ples. enshrined in many economic books. And going beyond just the smooth working of the market economy. those notes come to have the same currency as gold and silver money. 1. and butchers— still have excellent reason to seek more trade even today [out of “their self­love”]. as to believe he is always ready to pay upon demand such of his promissory notes as are likely to be at any time presented to him. 6 I turn. including the dominant contributions of John Rawls (1971) to what he calls “justice as fairness. Smith wanted institu­ tional diversity and motivational variety—not monolithic markets and the singular dominance of the profit motive. he argued: When the people of any particular country has such confidence in the fortune. pioneered by Thomas Hobbes in the sev­ enteenth century. 2. 2. may be at a loss about how to understand the pres­ ent economic crisis (since people—even bakers. goes well beyond the model of the social contract. 28. The Idea of Justice (2009). Vol. to a particular use of Smith’s reasoning that has been. finally. which lies today behind most of the mainstream theories of justice in contemporary political philosophy. Smith also discussed the need for various institutions that can do what the markets may not be able to achieve. para. and prudence of a particular banker. Our determination to do something about these failures demands more than the pursuit of self­interest and even of self­centered prudence. For example. The relevance of Smith’s ideas for the theory of justice. illiteracy. He was deeply concerned about the incidence of poverty.

in his structured theory of “justice as fairness. But we can do this in no other way than by endeavouring to view them with the eyes of other people.” to which I referred earlier. or as other people are likely to view them. and this differs substantially from the admissible points of view on which social contract theories tend to concentrate. particularly for what he calls a “reflective equilibrium.” the relevant points of view are from the perspectives of only those of the inhabitants of the society in which the so­called original position is being considered. from our own natural station.” distant perspectives can be invoked. behaviors. As Smith ([1759] 2010.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 267 Unlike the social contract approach. Furthermore.” Something more than an “identity blackout” within the . with its confinement to the views of the parties to the social contract in a sovereign state and therefore to fellow citizens of that particular sovereign state. and ask how the proposed contract would look to people outside this particular sovereign state. and other factors. to wit the views of the people within a polity in which the contract is being made. 133) argued in words worth quoting again: We can never survey our own sentiments and motives. The internal discussion among the participants in the Rawlsian origi­ nal position would appear to Smith to be inadequately scrutinized.” but paid extensive attention to the removal of injustice in the lives that people are actually able to lead. influenced by institutions. Rawls’s focus in his beautifully developed and yet limited approach of “justice as fairness” is on removing biases of a kind that is related to vested interests and personal slants within a given society. Smith’s device of the impartial spectator leans toward an “open impartial­ ity” in contrast with what can be called the “closed impartiality” of the social contract tradition. accommodates views coming from far as well as near. and it abstains from invoking the scrutiny of (in Smith’s language) “the eyes of the rest of mankind. and it extends to global concerns. unless we remove ourselves. unlike the contractarian theories of justice. and endeavour to view them as at a certain distance from us. Adam Smith’s invoking of the “impartial spectator. Smith did not concentrate on defining “just institutions. we can never form any judgment concerning them. as it were. Even though in John Rawls’s discussion of moral reasoning. since we have to look beyond people in the same society who are engaged in making the social contract. Smith’s atten­ tion is not confined only to what happens within a sovereign state.

includ­ ing the disastrous famine of 1770. In today’s interdependent world. Second. or by the world economic crisis that we are currently experiencing. there is a further ground—that of avoiding the trap of parochialism—for accepting the necessity of taking an “open” approach to examining the demands of impartiality. in addition to the global features of interdependent interests. and from continent to continent. Also AIDS and other epidemics move from country to country. on the other side. in fact. confining our attention to national interest only cannot be the basis of understanding the demands of justice. The first ground. the medicines devel­ oped and produced in some parts of the world are important for the lives and freedoms of people far away. but on the kind of reach that the impar­ tial spectator allows. or by global warming. Whether we consider the challenges posed by terrorism. related to the interdependence of interests. Adam Smith made good use of the reach of global reasoning in many particular examples of diagnosable injustice across the world in each of his books. and (2) the pertinence of other people’s perspectives to broaden our own investigation of relevant principles.268 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) confines of the local focal group would be needed to address what is left out. for the sake of avoiding underscrutinized parochialism of values and pre­ sumptions in the local community.” but was “altogether unfit to govern its territorial possessions. motivated Adam Smith to chastise the injustice of slavery anywhere in the world. For example. the misdeeds of early British rule in India. two principal grounds for requiring that the encoun­ ter of public reasoning about justice should go beyond boundaries of a state or a region. There are. When he concluded that the East India Company not only “oppresses and domineers in the East Indies. engaged Smith greatly in The Wealth of Nations.” he was not drawing on any oddly devised social contract (it would have been very hard to fit the judgment in the contractarian framework). and also. and these are based respectively on (1) the relevance of other people’s interests—far away from as well as near a given society— for the sake of preventing unfairness to others who are not a party to the social contract for that society. And Smith’s impartial spectator is a very illuminating way of meet­ ing this need. without confining judgments of justice within the limits of a sovereign state. If the discussion of the demands of justice is con­ fined to a particular locality—a country or even a larger region than that— . it is easy to appreciate the need to con­ sider the interdependence of interests.

11. for example that in the U. Smith was particularly concerned about avoiding the grip of parochial­ ism in jurisprudence and moral and political reasoning. as upon many other occasions. Scrutiny from a “distance” may be useful for practices as different as the stoning of adulterous women in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. . In a chapter titled “On the Influence of Custom and Fashion upon the Sentiments of Moral Approbation and Disapprobation” in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. or for that matter in the United States. Korea.” Even Plato and Aristotle supported this practice. for example much of Europe and Latin America (which do not have capital punishment).Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 269 there is a possible danger of ignoring or neglecting many challenging counterarguments that might not have come up in local political debates or been accommodated in the discourses confined to the local culture. and plen­ tiful use of capital punishment in China. for example.11 The relevance of distant perspectives has a clear bearing on some current debates in the United States. Saudi Arabia. on the appropriateness of the death sentence for crimes committed in a person’s juvenile years. which ought to have been more just and accurate. the fact that “the murder of new­born infants was a prac­ tice allowed of in almost all the states of Greece. even among the polite and civilized Athenians. by far­fetched consid­ erations of public utility” (245–46). based on statistics for 2008 and 2009. The United States executes more people each year than any other country in the world with the exception of China. and upon this. but even the doctrine of phi­ losophers. instead of censuring. Supreme Court not long ago. and parts of India. and Iran. selective abortion of female fetuses in China. and South Korea and India (which execute very rarely— none have been executed in more than five years). He notes. Smith gives various examples of how discussions confined within a given society can easily be fatally limited by parochial understanding.S. which may be found on the organization’s website. in an impartial perspective. The demands of justice being seen to be done even in a country like the United States cannot entirely neglect the understanding that may be generated by asking questions about how the problem is assessed in other countries in the world. See. was led away by the established custom. for example. He goes on to argue that “uninterrupted custom had by this time so thor­ oughly authorized the practice. Iraq. Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions in 2008 and Death Sentences and Executions in 2009. but which are eminently worth considering. that not only the loose maxims of the world tolerated this barbarous prerogative. supported the horrible abuse.

who was against the majority verdict. I have also argued that there are additional uses to which Smith’s ideas can be put that have been unduly neglected in the world of knowledge and understanding. Scrutiny from a “dis­ tance” can be quite essential for reasons that Adam Smith analyzed. further extension of fruitful uses of Smith is surely another. since the composition of the Supreme Court has changed since then. particularly in moral. 12. a shortened version of which appeared as Sen 2010b. If avoidance of abuses is one necessity. there are still things to do. This does need serious rectification. ruled against the use of the death sentence—very narrowly.12 Are outside judgments really dismissable? In denying the appropri­ ateness of capital punishment in this case. and legal philosophy. with far­ reaching consequences. by a 5 to 4 majority—for a crime that was committed in one’s juvenile years even though the execu­ tion. 7 I must stop here. suggested). Second.270 History of Political Economy 43:2 (2011) The majority judgment of the Court. . if allowed. as it happened. The new chief justice John Rob­ erts has made clear that he would have voted with the minority. more than history. and that more generally. taking note of questions that consideration of nonlocal perspectives can help to bring to focus. but have also helped to confound contemporary economic analysis. in this case. I have argued that while the uses—indeed appropriate uses—of Smith’s ideas are quite widespread and have certainly enriched the understanding of economics in particular and the social sciences in general. see Sen forthcoming. would occur after the person reached adulthood. There is a great deal of life left in the thoughts of that remarkable thinker who published his first book as a young professor at the University of Glasgow just over a quarter of a mil­ lennium ago. First. The verdict would have been different today. political. the majority in the Supreme Court did not simply “defer to like­minded foreigners” (as Justice Scalia. On this. The history of political economy includes. in order to arrive at grounded but nonparochial judgments. American judges should not be influenced by arguments presented and legal judgments made elsewhere. along with appropriate uses of Smith there are also a great many abuses that have not only led to a mis­ understanding of what the founder of modern economics really said.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press.. and Laws. Capital. Vol. Amartya. — —. — — —. 1976. edited by S. George. In Theory and Reality in Development. The Idea of Justice. Adam. Economics or Ethics? In vol. Oxford: Clarendon Press. and A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press. A Theory of Justice. 2010b. Words. On Ethics and Economics. Skinner. — — —. Oxford: Blackwell. . by Adam Smith. Adam Smith’s Prudence. 2009. — —. Laws. New Republic. Rawls. 2010a. 1987. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 1981. L. 2 vols. Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith. — Smith. Condorcet. Edited by R. London: Macmillan. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sen. and Language. Introduction to The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Stewart. Wilson. McMurrin. New York: Penguin. New York: Penguin. Smith’s Travels on the Ship of State. S.Sen / Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith 271 References Marx. Macfie. S. D. [1759] 2010. 28 October. edited by A. Rights. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. — — —. H. and the Enlightenment. Introduction to The Theory of Moral Sentiments. John. — — —. Campbell and A. Skinner and T. 1986. 2 of Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Raphael. — edited by S. In Essays on Adam Smith. [1776] 1976. Forthcoming. Lall and F. Karl. [1971] 1975. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. London: Penguin. London: Penguin. Emma. 2001. 1992. — Stigler. Rights. D. 1971. Rothschild. — —.

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Theme 1 The Fine Arts .