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

Princeton University Press
Free sample

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 industrialization, 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 industrialized and globalized 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.

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About the author

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.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 26, 2011
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400831012
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Business & Economics / Economics / Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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How scientific is economics? This question has often been framed by analogies and correspondences made between economics and other, seemingly more well-established scientific disciplines, starting with classical mechanics. At the same time economics is likely to be seen in opposition to or in contrast with history, where the reliance upon generalizing rules, thought experiments, and model construction in economics is set against the amassing of particular facts intended to create narratives in history.

In this new volume, Turk explores the relationship between economics and history, including the often fraught one between economics and economic history, making the case that economics does in fact require the proper grounding in history that has so often been ignored. This work challenges the attempt to link economics with other, more clearly ‘scientific’ disciplines as flawed and fundamentally wrongheaded. A key element of this book is its examination of the gaps and associations that exist in, or are seen through, linkages with thermodynamics, classical mechanics , biology, literature, mathematics, philosophy, and sociology. This exploration is frequently undertaken through study of the work of one or more major figures in the history of economic thought, ranging from Quesnay and Smith, through Walras and Max Weber, to Robinson, Krugman, David, and Arthur.

Through the possibility of an alternative to the gaps noted in each such comparison, the underlying, necessary connection between economics and history can be brought out. The book concludes by exploring the basis for the positive construction of a historical economics. This book is suited for those who study history of economic thought and philosophy of economics.

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The prime rationale underpinning this account drawn from the past is to put the case for political economy back on the agenda. This is done by treating economics as a social science once again, rather than as a positive science, as has been the inclination since the time of Jevons and Walras. It involves transcending the boundaries of the social sciences, but in a particular way that is in exactly the opposite direction now being taken by "economics imperialism". Drawing on the rich traditions of the past, the reintroduction and full incorporation of the social and the historical into the main corpus of political economy will be possible in the future.

Few deny that the work of economists has often embodied or stimulated significant contributions to political thought. Smith, Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman are good examples. However, the work of the great classical economist David Ricardo is not usually placed in such company. Despite Ricardo's affiliations with philosophical radicals like Bentham and James Mill, the most that previous scholars have been prepared to allow is that if Ricardo spoke to political questions at all, he addressed only economic policy. This book argues forcefully for a revision of that received opinion. Murray Milgate and Shannon Stimson show that Ricardo articulated a distinctive political vision, and that he did so in a novel and sophisticated way by linking arguments for democratic reform with the conclusions of political economy. Ricardian Politics examines compelling but neglected evidence of how Ricardo deployed economic theory to construct a new view of politics. Milgate and Stimson analyze the case he made for a more inclusive political society and for a more representative and democratic government, discuss how his argument was structured by his economics, and explicitly draw out comparisons with Bentham and James Mill. Ricardo wrote at a critical moment, which saw the consolidation of capitalist industry and the emergence of modern democratic political ideology. By attending to the historical context, this book recovers a more accurate picture of his thought, while contributing to the current renewal of research on the relationship between economic and political thought in early nineteenth-century Britain.

Originally published in 1991.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 edition

The original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.

Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.

Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

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