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Smith’s Attitude toward Rousseau

Daniel B. Klein

George Mason University - Department of Economics

October 20, 2011

GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-49

This piece is a review of Dennis C. Rasmussen’s book, The Problems and Promise of Commercial Society: Adam Smith’s Response to Rousseau (2008). The book superbly explains Rousseau’s criticisms of commercial society and Smith’s concern with and response to those criticisms. Rasmussen helps us appreciate that Smith took Rousseau seriously and implicitly used him as a foil, and that our understanding of Smith is greatly enriched by considering him in relation to Rousseau. My chief difference with Rasmussen is that I think he portrays Smith’s attitude toward Rousseau as having been much more positive than it was. I contend, for example, that Smith’s 1756 praise for Rousseau’s dedication (of the Discourse on Inequality) to Geneva was satirical.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 13

Keywords: Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, commercial society, Theory of Moral Sentiments, Discourse on Inequality

JEL Classification: B1, B3, A13

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Date posted: November 6, 2011 ; Last revised: November 7, 2011

Suggested Citation

Klein, Daniel B., Smith’s Attitude toward Rousseau (October 20, 2011). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-49. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1955234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1955234

Contact Information

Daniel B. Klein (Contact Author)
George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
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