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
Date Written: 2005
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: Suggested Citation