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Can prosperity and morality co-exist?

We're delighted to welcome back Dr Jonathan White, Reader in European Politics at the London School of Economics, for his second set of Different Class sessions on society. We'll be starting by asking if prosperity and morality co-exist. Extracts from Adam Smith's work will focus our discussion.

Adam Smith (1723 - 1790) was a philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment whose extraordinary impact has barely diminished since. Considered the father of modern economics his name is closely associated with promotion of free markets, his "invisible hand" being extended as the guiding metaphor explaining a self-regulating economy and society. His two major works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations together provide a comprehensive, though not necessarily coherent, model of human social behaviour. The role of self-interest might be emphasised in The Wealth of Nations but the earlier Theory of Moral Sentiments develops a broad psychological understanding of society in which sympathy and conscience have a determining role in human relations.

Preliminary Reading

Smith, Adam, Theory of Moral Sentiments (Book 1, Sections 1 and 3) and
Smith, Adam, Wealth of Nations (Book 1, Chapters 1 and 2).

Online: and

Physical: and

As ever, you're strongly advised to have a look at the reading in advance so that you can make a full contribution to the discussion.

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  • aaron p.

    Smith's account of primitive accumulation is a fantasy

    October 9, 2012

  • Nick S.

    I agree, when it IS carried out with that approach; but it usually is not. "Great men are almost always bad men" (Lord Acton)

    September 21, 2012

  • Eamon W.

    I am convinced the answer is yes, when business is carried out with the win-win-win approach.

    September 21, 2012

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