Was Adam Smith an individualist?

History of the Human Sciences 12 (3):71-86 (1999)
Abstract
Smith is generally regarded as an individualist without qualification. This paper argues that his predominantly individualist policy prescription is rooted in a more complex philosophy. He sees nature, including human nature, as a vast machine supervised by God and designed to maximise human happiness. Human weaknesses, as well as strengths, display the wisdom of God and play their part in this scheme. While Smith pays lip service to justice, it is really social order that pre-occupies him, and within that, the defence of property. Individuals are valued as bearers of property. As persons, individuals are deceived by nature into acting in a socially beneficial way. In different ways Smith systematically denies the autonomy of the individual with respect to the whole of which he is part. For Smith, individual liberty is, not the end, but the means, of sustaining social order and property.
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