Better than a Rope of Sand: cohesion in commercial society

Christopher J Berry

Abstrakt


 

RESEARCH OBJECTIVE: Do Smith, Hume and other Scots have an argument to reject John Brown’s claim in his Estimate that a society based on self-interest lacks cohesion? And can they do so without accepting Hobbes’ argument that the necessary cohesion can only be provided by the threat of coercion from a sovereign?

THE RESEARCH PROBLEM AND METHODS: Problem: The eighteenth century debate on the nature of commercial society. Method: Analysis of key texts in the debate as it occurred in Scotland.

THE PROCESS OF ARGUMENTATION: The Scots argue that a society where everyman lives by exchanging, operating on the assumption of selfinterest, is a more peaceable, more equitable and thus more cohesive than that envisioned by Brown. When reinforced by the rule of law, self-interested behaviour supports mutually supportive behaviour. Ultimately this embodies a constant and universal principle of human nature. Human behaviour is not random or chaotic and a commercial society not only exemplifies that fact but also sustains a form of societal life superior to any that has one before.

RESEARCH RESULTS: Nostalgia for an earlier time is mis-placed. For all its vehemence Brown’s critique is mis-directed and thus unjustified.

CONCLUSION, INNOVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: This selection of the Scots should be widened to investigate whether Ferguson, Kames, Wallace among others have the same resources as Hume and Smith to rebut Brown.

  

Słowa kluczowe


self-interest; Commerce; Justice; Smith; Hume

Pełny tekst:

PDF (English)

Bibliografia


Berry, C. (1987). Need and Egoism in Marx’s Early Writings. History of Political Thought, 8, 461‑473.

Berry, C. (2013). Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment (1767). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Ferguson, A. (1967). An Essay on the History of Civil Society, ed. D. Forbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hume, D. (1978). A Treatise of Human Nature (1739/40), ed. L. Selby-Bigge & P. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hume, D. (1987a). Of First Principles of Government (1741). In: E. Miller (ed.), Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Hume, D. (1987b). Of Refinement of Arts. In: E. Miller (ed.), Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Hume, D. (1998). An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), ed. T. Beauchamp. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hutcheson, F. (1994). Philosophical Writings, ed. R. Downie. London: Dent.

Mandeville, B. (1988). Fable of the Bees (1732), ed. F. Kaye. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Millar, J. (2006). Historical View (1797/1803), ed. M. Salber Phillips. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Ostrom, E. (1998), A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice of Collective Action. American Political Science Review, 92, 1‑22.

Shaftesbury, Lord. (1900). Characteristics, ed. J. Robertson. London: Grant Richards.

Smith, A. (1981). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), eds. R. Campbell & A. Skinner. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Smith, A. (1982a). The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759/1790), ed. D. Raphael & A. MacFie. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Smith, A. (1982b). Lectures on Jurisprudence, ed. R. Meek et al. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Smith, A. (1983). Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. J. Bryce. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.

Steuart, J. (1966). An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy (1767), ed. A. Skinner. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wallace, R. (1768). Characteristics of the Present Political State of Great Britain. London.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.