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Free Content Benjamin Constant: his debts towards Adam Smith

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The bonds linking Benjamin Constant's work to the Scottish moralists have always been known. But the discovery and subsequent publication of the 1806 Principes de politique have in particular shown how intellectually indebted Constant was to Adam Smith. In order to develop his theory of the limitation of political power, Constant truly stood on Smith's shoulders. He took up Smith's theory of the dispersal of knowledge, which is probably the most significant page of The Wealth of Nations. Smith believed that every person has a knowledge of particular circumstances of time and place, which puts each of us in a position of advantage compared with all others. It was on the basis of this theorem that he demolished the myth of the omniscient legislator. Therein lies the root of Constant's political theory, and this is often neglected by those who fail to grasp the breadth and fruitfulness of Smith's thought.
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Keywords: IGNORANCE AND FALLIBILITY; KNOWLEDGE; POLITICAL POWER; POWER LIMITATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April, 2019

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