Sociology Index

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Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a economist, philosopher, a pioneer of political economy, The Father of Economics and The Father of Capitalism. Adam Smith wrote the classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. Adam Smith introduced his theory of absolute advantage.

Adam Smith obtained a professorship at Glasgow, teaching moral philosophy and during this time, wrote and published The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith laid the foundations of classical free market economics. The Wealth of Nations was a precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. In this and other works, he developed the concept of division of labour and expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity.

Adam Smith began to give more attention to jurisprudence and economics in his lectures and less to his theories of morals. Adam Smith lectured that the cause of increase in national wealth is labour, rather than the nation's quantity of gold or silver, which is the basis for mercantilism, the economic theory that dominated Western European economic policies at the time. Smith concluded that with all its imperfections, the Physiocratic school was perhaps the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy.

In 1763, Adam Smith got an offer from Charles Townshend—who had been introduced to Smith by David Hume—to tutor his stepson, Henry Scott, the young Duke of Buccleuch. As a tutor he had to travel and teach. He met many stalwarts in the course of his travels. Smith met with the philosopher Voltaire. David Hume was a friend and contemporary of Smith's. He met Benjamin Franklin, and discovered the Physiocracy school founded by François Quesnay. Physiocrats were opposed to mercantilism, the dominating economic theory of the time, illustrated in their motto Laissez faire et laissez passer (Let do and let pass, the world goes on by itself!).