Dynamist Blog

Postmodernism and Adam Smith

Brad DeLong has a wonderful post on his two-month infatuation with Keith Tribe and, by extension, Foucault and what their errors taught him about Adam Smith. I won't try to summarize. Just read it and, if possible, read Adam Smith. (Liberty Fund has put searchable versions of The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments online, but you're better off buying the real books. Nice, inexpensive, and authoritatively edited copies are available from Liberty Fund's main site. Along with the obvious classics, I also recommend Smith's Essays on Philosophical Subjects.)

Like his friend David Hume, Smith was, as Brad says, a rare genius, and he is far too little read. You don't need P.J. O'Rourke to translate. The 18th century was a great era for English prose and while the sentences are a lot longer than contemporary conventions advise, they're a lot easier to read than plenty of academic writing--whether from postmodern theorists or neoclassical economists.

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