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The Wealth of Nations (Modern Library)

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 1130 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Later Printing edition (January 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679424733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679424734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 2.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Adam Smith's enormous authority resides, in the end, in the same property that we discover in Marx: not in any ideology, but in an effort to see to the bottom of things."
--Robert L. Heilbroner

From the Inside Flap

Adam Smith's masterpiece, first published in 1776, is the foundation of modern economic thought and remains the single most important account of the rise of, and the principles behind, modern capitalism. Written in clear and incisive prose, The Wealth of Nations articulates the concepts indispensable to an understanding of contemporary society; and Robert Reich's new Introduction for this edition both clarifies Smith's analyses and illuminates his overall relevance to the world in which we live. As Reich writes, "Smith's mind ranged over issues as fresh and topical today as they were in the late eighteenth century--jobs, wages, politics, government, trade, education, business, and ethics."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

A must read by anyone with an interest in economics.
Rubens RAMOS
If you are reading this review and looking at buying this book--just do it.
A very hard book to read, but well worth the effort.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

494 of 509 people found the following review helpful By Amazonian on February 11, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you're wondering which Wealth of Nations to purchase, get the Bantam paperback. This is Smith's complete and unabridged final version of the Wealth of Nations. It provides footnotes on Smith's wording, the historical context, and the differences between Smith's 5th edition and previous editions. In addition, the margin of the pages contain useful notes which summarize Smith's writing. For the price, this is clearly the superior choice.

Now, if you're wondering whether you should undertake such an endeavor, let me just say that Adam Smith was a professor of rhetoric. He explains everything so precisely, yet so comprehensible. Smith's writing is by no means difficult; I actually found it a surprisingly easy read given its antique nature. Once you get through the first chapter, you get quite used to Smith's writing style. If you put adequate time and energy into it, it's not hard at all.
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422 of 447 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have no criticism with Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations." My criticism is with the Great Minds Series edition of the book. The Great Minds Series is an abridged version. Huge chunks have been edited out of the book, yet nowhere do they let you know this before making the purchase. I bought this book specifically because I wanted to cite it, and I can't because the parts I wanted to quote have been edited out.
Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" is a worthy book for any private library, but purchase an edition other than the one offered by the so-called "Great Minds Series."
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573 of 612 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Krawisz on September 26, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was origionally reading the text version of this book on the internet until the printed version came. I was downtroden, sickened, and even frightened to find that the Great Minds Series version of The Wealth of Nations is incomplete, yet gives no indication whatsoever of being so.
The introduction and chapters 2, 3, and 4 of book 3 are simply not there. They are not even listed in the table of contents. There is no discrepency in the page numbers, or any other teletale indication that it is incomplete. It is not written anywhere that it is an abrigement.
I want to point out how careless it is and how misleading to the reader in comprehending the philosophy of Adam Smith to print an incomplete book without any warning.
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134 of 139 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Wight on October 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations brilliantly analyzes how a nation's living standards can be raised. In large part his wisdom still applies today. To briefly summarize Smith's thinking:
1. Standards of living are determined by the productivity of workers.
2. Productivity of workers is greatly enhanced by specialization (see the famous example of the pin factory in the first chapter!).
3. Greater specialization is possible only if the market size grows. Thus, government laws that prohibit growth of the market hurt specialization, and thereby keep living standards from rising. This is why Smith opposed laws that restricted trade or created monopolies. Smith actively worked to keep Britain from going to war against its American colonies over trade issues. The Wealth of Nations is a political tract designed to sway the British parliament (obviously it failed in that regard).
4. Productivity of workers is enhanced by raising their wages.
5. Productivity of workers is enhanced by publicly funded education.
6. The role of markets is exquisitely analyzed by Smith. Self-interest leads people to carry out private activities that lead to social betterment, as if by an "invisible hand."
7. It is a serious misinterpretation of Smith to assert that greed or selfishness is the same as self-interest. Smith labored hard to avoid any such confusion. Please see his other book which addresses this specific issue: The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
8. Clearly Smith favored limited government. But Smith was NOT a strict advocate of laissez-faire.
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178 of 188 people found the following review helpful By Rehan Dost on July 6, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Using a vast historical database and plenty of everyday examples Adam Smith lays the foundations of modern economics without the formalization which would come later.

He starts by exploring the need for specialization of labour once societies advance beyond the hunter gatherer phase. As a result each individual is incapable of sustaining his basic needs and thus must purchase these using his labour which Smith views as the source of all value. As a result demand and supply is created for such labour.

He makes the natural assumption that each individual pursues their best interests.

He foreshadows the concepts of marginal utility and scarcity in determining the shapes of demand curves for commodities. ( He never actually mentions curves ).

Similarly, he describes the three factors determining supply prices for commodities ( rent of land, wages and capital costs ) and the various factors which influence them ( the equivalent of modern supply/demand curves for each factor ).

He puts these together under ideal circumstances to show how supply and demand meet to clear markets ( equilibrium in modern language ).

He then turns to macroeconomics laying the foundations for GDP and shows how capital can be distributed to "unproductive labour" ( that labour used to maintain productive labour ) such as doctors lawyer entertainers etc and "productive labour" ( that labour used in the manufacture and distribution of raw and finished products ). He explores the consequences of various distribution of each from both the micro and macroeconomic perspective.

He concludes by emphasizing the importance of government in providing international and domestic security as well as providing public works and institutions especially education.
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