Two Superiors, Two Jural Relationships in Adam Smith

Adam Smith Review (vol. 12), Forthcoming

28 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2020

Date Written: September 21, 2020

Abstract

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments Smith uses the noun superior in multiple ways. A comparative superior is one who is superior in a specific quality or characteristic; the rules of (commutative) justice apply equally to the comparative superior and the comparative inferior. But Smith identifies another kind of superior, the jural superior, which he associates with ‘the laws of all civilized nations’, ‘the civil magistrate’, ‘the sovereign’, and ‘a law-giver’. Thus, Smith’s ‘superior’ passages suggest there are two jural relationships within his work. In addition to the equal-equal jural relationship, there is the superior-inferior jural relationship. The other kind of superior, the jural superior, has a jural relationship with others called the superior-inferior relationship—which may be thought of as the governor-governed relationship. The rules of justice apply equally in the equal-equal relationship, but not in the superior-inferior relationship. Recognizing the uniqueness of the jural superior highlights the importance of liberty/justice as a central theme in Smith.

Keywords: Justice, jural relationships, coercion, Adam Smith

JEL Classification: A13, B12

Suggested Citation

Diesel, Jonathon, Two Superiors, Two Jural Relationships in Adam Smith (September 21, 2020). Adam Smith Review (vol. 12), Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3696171

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