The Invisible Hand of God in Adam Smith

Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, 23-A: 1-32.

39 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2017

See all articles by Andy Denis

Andy Denis

City, University of London

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

Adam Smith is revered as the father of modern economics. Analysis of his writings, however, reveals a profoundly medieval outlook. Smith is preoccupied with the need to preserve order in society. His scientific methodology emphasises reconciliation with the world we live in rather than investigation of it. He invokes a version of natural law in which the universe is a harmonious machine administered by a providential deity. Nobody is uncared for and, in real happiness, we are all substantially equal. No action is without its appropriate reward – in this life or the next. The social desirability of individual self-seeking activity is ensured by the ‘invisible hand’, that is, the hand of a god who has moulded us so to behave, that the quantity of happiness in the world is always maximised.

Keywords: collective rationality, individual rationality, providentialism, Adam Smith, invisible hand

JEL Classification: A13, B12, B31, B40

Suggested Citation

Denis, Andy, The Invisible Hand of God in Adam Smith (2005). Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, 23-A: 1-32., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2613422

Andy Denis (Contact Author)

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HOME PAGE: http://www.staff.city.ac.uk/andy.denis/

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