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Adam Smith and the Natural Wage: Sympathy, Subsistence and Social Distance

R. Donald

Review of Social Economy, 1997, vol. 55, issue 3, 292-311

Abstract: This article focuses on Adam Smith's attitude toward wages as the natural price of labor. It argues that his subsistence wage had similarities with the medieval Schoolmen's notion of the just wage as being established through markets. He further agreed with them that the market wage had to be sufficient to nurture community standards of virtue. His application of the concept differed from theirsn due to his recognition of the problems caused by social distance. In a commercial society, impersonal relations added difficulties to the attainment of a just wage and could diminish virtue. As a result, sympathy from employers and from public officials was needed as part of the Smithian standard of wages.

Keywords: Just wage; subsistence wage; social distance; division of labor; sympathy; self-interest (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1997
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DOI: 10.1080/00346769700000002

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