Irony in Adam Smith’s Critical Global History

Political Theory 45 (2):141-163 (2017)


This essay argues that attention to Adam Smith’s ironic framing of his historical narratives in the Wealth of Nations shows his critique of modern commercial society to have been more radical than is generally recognized. These narratives traced the pathologies of European development and the complex chains of causation that linked Smith’s readers—with often destructive and even catastrophic results—to other human beings distant from themselves. While Smith gave reasons to doubt that sympathy for distant others could bring about reform, I argue that he used irony and what he called ridicule to make the book’s British audience aware of the violence of the global commercial system and their place in it as both abettors and lesser victims of its abuses.

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Adam Smith: So What If the Sovereign Shares in Ignorance?Lev Marder - 2018 - Journal of International Political Theory 14 (1):20-40.

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