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Adam Smith in His Time and Ours Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691001616
ISBN-10: 0691001618
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This solid, clearly written primer aims to redeem the famed economist Adam Smith's subtle and complex views, which have often been caricatured. First placing Smith in intellectual and historical context, Muller then analyzes The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments , finding in them "a vision of commercial humanism." Though usually characterized as a free-marketer, Smith actually viewed government as crucial to regulating industry and providing infrastructure, states Muller, an associate professor of history at the Catholic University of America. After exploring Smith's comprehensive views of religion, social psychology and social science, Muller concludes by showing how Smith has been misread and wrongly criticized and suggests that Smith's concerns about character, virtue and the institutions to foster them remain relevant today.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

According to Muller (economics, Catholic Univ.), Adam Smith's ideas are not what they are thought to be by either his biggest fans or biggest critics. By jointly exploring Smith's two major works ( The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments ), the author captures the original Smith and infuses new relevance into his writings about tackling contemporary economic challenges. Smith's two works provide a discussion on how to structure institutions in order to channel personal emotions into the common good. Muller has written a provocative and generally convincing reexamination of one of the essential figures of Anglo-American intellectual heritage. Not just for economists, this book is recommended for all academic libraries.
- Richard C. Schiming, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (July 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691001618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691001616
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zvi Bodie on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am sure that anyone interested in the history of ideas will enjoy reading this book for its clear exposition of Smith's ideas and their relevance to today's economic, social, and political issues. Muller has a scholar's mastery of Smith's writings as well as a broad knowledge of their intellectual antecedents. The style is jargon-free.
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Format: Hardcover
Muller puts Smith in historical context and integrates his major works (Wealth of Nations, Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Lectures on Jurisprudence, the latter surviving only in the form of student notes) to paint a complete picture of Smith as moral philosopher. Smith's philosophy is often mischaracterized as one in which "greed is good" and the market alone is sufficient to attain a civil and productive society. Muller goes far beyond this cartoonish version of Smith to place his appreciation for the market in its proper context and distinguish Smith from contemporaries such as Mandeville and Bentham.

Muller's analysis is well-developed, but his exposition is at times repetitive. The final chapter, in which he attempts to relate Smith's philosophy to contemporary society, is a bit of a throwaway; and Muller is on shakier ground discussing economics than ethics. On balance, though, this is a fascinating and useful book that any student of Adam Smith should own. Despite the book's age, even the twenty-page Guide to Further Reading remains valuable.
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Format: Paperback
This book describes Adam Smith as others who lived at the same time would have seen him (which is perforce a little different than we see him now, centuries later). For example, he was guided by and contributed to international philosophic disputes that appear antiquated or quaint or just plain ridiculous now, such as the discussions about "natural rights" volleyed between the French and the Scottish enlightenments. And certain parts of his writings that appear to us a little disconnected or exaggerated make perfect sense when understood as attempts to appeal to a particular government agency or a house of the British Parliament or a particular political party.

And of course once one gets "in context" and starts reexamining the man, it's a slippery slope to reexamining the man's writings too. So it's not surprising that much of this book is devoted to reinterpreting Adam Smith's entire written oeuvre. Or to put it a little differently, this book winds up describing in great detail what Adam Smith's writings "really" meant. Unsurprisingly, there are a few significant differences between the results of this approach and how we understand his writings nowadays. For example he was not very concerned with (and even somewhat denigrated) both "laissez-faire" and "profits". Instead his main concern was designing and constructing a "decent society" that worked well for everyone. Although the book doesn't say so explicitly, the obvious conclusion is that if Adam Smith saw how his works are understood and used these days, he would be horrified.

This book's general drift is completely unlike anything else I've seen about Adam Smith and his work.
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Format: Paperback
Before reading this book I believed that I was aware of the essence of what Adam Smith offered, but I was wrong, and I suspect many others would learn from this book that there is a complexity to Adam Smith's philosophy of which most have not been informed.

Smith has much to say about the role of government, and the negatives of market capitalism, opinions for which he is little known. He also presents a less than sanguine view of the motives and morals of the merchant class. Many of us who think we possess a clear understand of what Adam Smith advocated might find this book enlightening.

To gain such understanding we could simply read the Wealth of Nations in its entirety, but reading Adam Smith in the original can be difficult and tedious. Professor Muller does all the heavy lifting for us, adds his own very substantial erudition, and presents an entertaining and valuable survey of Smith's writings and wisdom along with interesting biographical information.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Placing Smith's economic thought within the context of his broader social science, Mr. Muller does a great service for those only familiar with "The Wealth of Nations." Although this book has immense value as a work of intellectual history, I was surprised how often Smith's moral and political reasoning provided useful insights for contemporary problems.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book. I do, however, fault Mr. Muller (or his publishing company) for neglecting to make it available on Kindle. Your work merits an audience Mr. Muller, it should be made available on as many platforms as possible!
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