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The Opinion of MankindSociability and the Theory of the State from Hobbes to Smith$
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Paul Sagar

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691178882

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691178882.001.0001

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Adam Smith’s Political Theory of Opinion

Adam Smith’s Political Theory of Opinion

(p.166) Chapter Five Adam Smith’s Political Theory of Opinion
The Opinion of Mankind

Paul Sagar

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines Adam Smith's political theory of opinion in relation to the contributions of David Hume and, to a lesser extent, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, regarding sociability and the state. More specifically, it explores how Smith's development of Hume's alternative theoretic framework of opinion led him to construct a theory of regime forms that was deeply historically inflected, even as he also ultimately admitted that philosophy is incapable of finally resolving the tensions and predicaments generated by purely secular politics. The chapter first considers Smith's notion of utility as the central factor in explaining human sociability before discussing his insight into the correct understanding of the role of utility in human psychology, which carried extensive implications for politics. It then analyzes Smith's rejection of Montesquieu's classification of monarchies and republics and his account of how opinion generated authority. It also describes Smith's views on sovereignty and the limits of philosophy.

Keywords:   sovereignty, Adam Smith, political theory, opinion, David Hume, sociability, theory of regime forms, philosophy, utility, authority

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