Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Evolution of civil justice and the process by which moral sentiments were exchanged and agreed within society

The Long History of Markets and Exchange
from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

It is the corruption of markets that attracted Adam Smith’s ire, and not markets as such. Adam Smith did not write a textbook of doctrine about markets; he wrote about what he observed, not what philosophers, both contemporary (example, J. J. Rousseau’s condemnation of improved society and its failings, of which he was hardly a shining moral example) and long-past luminaries of the ancient world (example, Plato), made of the quite enormous possibilities of wealth, the ‘annual output of the ‘necessaries, convenience, and amusements of life’, for the real lives of really poor people.

Smith’s historical, ‘looking backwards’, perspective, showed all too clearly the moral corruption of ‘the rulers of mankind’ as individuals in all societies, those with nothing, those with next to nothing, and those with a few artifacts, trinkets, and ‘baubles’ that made them ‘great’ compared to societies still running ‘free’ in the forest.

He wasn’t too impressed with the purveyors of superstition, the misleaders of men and their pusillanimity, the posers who pandered to their pathetic tastes for undeserved praise from their ‘inferiors’, and legislators and those who influenced them with patently false doctrines of political economy, civil government and ‘divine’ rule.

But about commerce, he had few doubts. He debated Rousseau’s ideas, those of Bernard Mandeville, and those of mercantile political economists like Sir James Steuart and, instead, he saw commercial markets and exchange relationships in all areas of his Works, including in the origins of language, the progress of natural philosophy, the evolution of civil justice and the process by which moral sentiments were exchanged and agreed within society (and not through the senses), as being the cause and the consequence of the unintended, uncontrollable, and unforeseen actions, not plans, of human individuals relating through exchanges with each other since they finally began to secure themselves in their societies from the primitive, near animal, horizons of their earliest modes of subsistence.

Smith knew from his friend, the geologist James Hutton, how the world had evolved over ‘unimaginable’ long time periods (and not from 4004 BC!), and he achieved much a hundred years before Darwin discovered natural selection and before political economy began the long march away from how and why markets worked, and towards abstractions upon which there is still no agreement as to how they correspond to the real world of human societies.


  1. I wonder what Adam Smith would have thought about TELEVISION and the "culture" thus created in its image?

    And dose not capitalism depend on its "success" via the fact that the former seven deadly sins have been turned into the seven cardinal virtues. The never-ending exploitation of which drives the entire she-bang. Gross level desires and self destructive self-indulgence have thus become the norm.

    The grossly over-stuffed obese every-person couch potato IS the ultimate product of the system and its "success".

    How many people in the West need some kind of drug just to get by? How many millions of scripts for anti-depressants etc are written every day.

    And the dark shadow, or the flip side of the coin, IS the one billion plus living in absolute poverty. It is all part of the same pattern patterning.

    All traditional cultures were based on either understanding and hence the limitation and disciplining of desire, or of the transcendence of desire.

  2. In Truth and Reality capitalism, which is really an "advanced" form of social Darwinism (winner takes all) has inevitably brought the entire world to the brink of both cultural & ecological melt-down.