Adam Smith and the Economy of the Passions

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The fertility of Adam Smith’s work stems from a paradoxical structure where the pursuit of economic self-interest and wealth accumulation serve wider social objectives. The incentive for this wealth accumulation comes from a desire for social recognition or "sympathy" – the need to recognise ourselves in our peers – which is the primary incentive for moderating and transforming our violent and egotistical passions. Adam Smith thus examines in detail the subliminal emotional structure underlying market behaviour.

This new book by Professor Jan Horst Keppler presents an Adam Smith for the 21st century, more sceptical, searching and daring than he has ever been portrayed before. Without disputing the benefits of Adam Smith’s liberal economic system, Professor Keppler’s original contribution explores the anarchic passions constantly threatening to destroy all social bounds, and how the overarching "desire for love" and social recognition provides the Smithian individual with the incentive to transform his unsocial passions into a desire for social advancement and economic wealth with the view to gaining the vital approbation of his peers. One of the most striking results of this new reading of Adam Smith is the latter’s insistence on the primacy of exchange value over use value. In other words, the quest for wealth is exclusively driven by the value it represents in the eyes of others rather than by any value in individual use.

At a moment of crisis, where the link between "true" economic values and "virtual" financial values is more fragile than ever, Adam Smith’s work is a profoundly contemporary reminder that in the absence of personal, ethical groundings our economic actions are only grounded in the game of mirrors we play with our peers. This book will be of interest to postgraduate students and researchers in the History of Economics, or indeed any reader with an interest in the psychological foundations of a market economy and its theoretical representations as developed by Adam Smith.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jan H. Keppler’s study of the economy of the passions according to Adam Smith was previously limited to French-speaking readers. This work will allow English-speaking readers to discover an original approach to Adam Smith’s contribution in the light of economic theory, linguistics and a number of psychoanalytical notions."

Gilles Jacoud, University of Saint-Etienne

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jan Horst Keppler is Professor of Economics at the University Paris - Dauphine and Senior Researcher at PHARE Institute on the History and Epistemology of Economics at the University Paris I Pantheon - Sorbonne

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Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction: Personal Ethics and Social Morality 1. Reading Adam Smith 2. An Economy of the Passions in a Double System of Coordinates 3. The Horizontal Principle: Sympathy, Exchange and the Market 4. The Vertical Principle: the Impartial Spectator 5. The Paradoxical Synthesis 6. The Stakes of a Well-established Problem – Das Adam Smith Problem Part 2: Sympathy, Communication, Exchange – The Horizontal World 7. Self-Interest in the Service of Sociability: The World of Sympathy 8. The Exchange of Looks 9. Sympathy and the Harmonisation of Perceptions 10. The Limits of Sympathy 11. The Social Function of Wealth 12. Codification and the Reduction of Transaction Costs: From Sympathy to the Market 13. The Formation of Preferences through Auto-Referential Feedback Loops 14. From Image to Action: The Codification of the Smithian World 15. The Iconic World of The Wealth of Nations 16. The Division of Labour, Constant Returns and Equilibrium: Economics as Science Part 3: The Vertical World of the Impartial Spectator 17. The Names of Adam’s Father: Looking for the Impartial Spectator 18. Power and Limits of the Vertical Principle: The Two Tribunals 19. On the Difference in Status of ‘Generosity’ and ‘Justice’ 20. The Nature of the Impartial Spectator 21. Criticism and Refutation of the Vertical Principle 22. The Economic Passion 23. Passions and Interests 24. Self-Control and the Society of ‘Brothers’ 25. Ethics and Morality 26. Ethics and Morality in the Works and Life of Adam Smith Part 4: The Paradoxical Synthesis 27. ‘Efficient Causes’ and ‘Final Causes’: The Working of the Invisible Hand 28. The Invisible Hand and the ‘Cunning of Reason’ Part 5: The Ethics of Morality: Conclusion

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