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Adam Smith and the Ambiguity of Nations

John Berdell ()

Review of Social Economy, 1998, vol. 56, issue 2, 175-189

Abstract: What is the status of the nation state in Adam Smith's much celebrated intellectual system, the “Science of the Legislator”? This paper argues that it was historically transitory. Two aspects of Smith's treatment of states and international relations are examined. The first aspect concerns Smith's conception of the gains from international trade and openness. The second concerns his understanding of the dynamics of international conflict. These two aspects of Smith's conception of international relations go some way towards revealing the bases of his (skeptical) advocacy of a dramatic transformation of the British polity. Indeed, while the jurisprudential component of Smith's projected science of the legislator was never completed, surviving early lecture notes suggest that he regarded the nation-state as a transitional form: one that had already begun to need replacement in his day.

Keywords: Adam Smith; nationalism; openness (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1998
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DOI: 10.1080/00346769800000018

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