Adam Smith’s Rhetorical Strategy in The Wealth of Nations against the Commercial System of Great Britain

26 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2018

See all articles by Andreas Ortmann

Andreas Ortmann

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Benoit Walraevens

University of Caen Normandy

Date Written: January 15, 2018

Abstract

Analysing the rhetorical structure of (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of) The Wealth of Nations (Smith WN) and the political context of its publication, we make the case for the central importance of its Book V, “Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth”, which tends to be neglected in accounts of Smith’s oeuvre (and is occasionally not even included in printed versions of WN) but which, in our reading, is more than just a general treatise on optimal taxation and spending. Book V, notwithstanding its presumptive focus on the nature and causes of the wealth of nations everywhere, is foremost a tract focused on the viability of a British Empire under the thumb of a Mercantilist system. Aware that those he targeted, merchants, manufacturers, and their political supporters, would not take kindly to what he himself considered a very violent attack on the system, Smith made his case against the Mercantilist system, and the colonial policy which it pushed, by marshalling his earlier insights into rhetorical theory and practice. Indeed, step by step he slowly unfolded his critique of that system and then — as a well-informed, impartial spectator — presented, in the very last pages of the book, his own view of “the American question” (Phillipson 2010).

Keywords: Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, rhetoric, rhetorical structure of The Wealth of Nations, the American question

JEL Classification: B10, B12, C70, C72

Suggested Citation

Ortmann, Andreas and Walraevens, Benoit, Adam Smith’s Rhetorical Strategy in The Wealth of Nations against the Commercial System of Great Britain (January 15, 2018). UNSW Business School Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3300236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3300236

Andreas Ortmann

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Benoit Walraevens (Contact Author)

University of Caen Normandy ( email )

Esplanade de la Paix
Caen, 14000
France

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