ADAM SMITH'S COSMOPOLITANISM: THE EXPANDING CIRCLES OF COMMERCIAL STRANGERSHIP

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Abstract:

This article explores Adam Smith's (1723-90) cosmopolitanism by examining his conception of the ideal global regime and his attitudes to classical cosmopolitanism, British imperialism, American independence, war, mercantilism, benevolence, global integration, specialization, patriotism and his own alleged nationalism. It is argued that Smith shares with the Stoics the ideal of a world community but his cosmopolitanism is based, not on the sympathetic workings of universal benevolence, but on mutual enablement and the desire for and satisfaction of exponential material enrichment. Such a state precludes conflict and territorial rivalry. Patriotism will not disappear but will be moderated by a pacific desire for prosperity via free trade. Eventually fierce nationalistic sentiments and intense alliances between security allies will be subdued by a development-induced aversion to conflict and the habits of amicable strangership underlying commercial cosmopolitanism. The article outlines the efficient mechanisms by which this is to be achieved and, in so doing, shows why, for Smith, economic cosmopolitanism is at once desirable, necessary and natural.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of History and Politics, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia, Email: lisa.hill@adelaide.edu.au

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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