Adam Smith, il quadrilatero della simpatia e la follia e l’ingiustizia dei ricchi e dei potenti

Parolechiave (50):159-172 (2013)
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I discuss first Adam Smith’s ethical theory and the peculiar function played by the quadrangle of sympathy, the social function of sympathy with the rich and powerful and the unavoidable corruption of moral sentiments it carries. Secondly, I examine human nature in Smith’s work, and show how diverging tendencies are carried by different social roles. Thirdly I discuss the modest normative claims advanced by his ethical theory and show how these are not from utilitarian ones, how ethical pluralism is mirrored in Smith’s triad of private virtues, prudence, justice, benevolence and of public virtues, liberty, justice, equality, how these are far from being utilitarian virtues, being rather the result of overlapping between several reasonable normative ethics. Fourthly I discuss Smith’s attitude to merchants and master-manufacturers, showing how, far being the theorist of ‘bourgeois virtues’, he was a radical critic of both the aristocratic establishment and the new emerging class in the name of oppressed. My conclusion is that ‘The Wealth of Nations’ is not an argument for self-regulating markets but instead an argument for a less authoritarian society where political authority, under pressure from a newly formed public opinion made by people in the middling ranks of life, would cease favouring the most powerful pressure group and leave ‘civil society’ in a condition where an adjustment in the distribution of wealth, revenue, knowledge and power could take place through a quasi-spontaneous process

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