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All in the best possible taste: Adam Smith and the leaders of fashion

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Adam Smith devotes a great deal of attention to the role of fashion in the relationship between the social classes. Smith's general account of fashion is grounded on the transmission of fashion from the rich to the poor. However, when it comes to accounting for the generation of fashion amongst the wealthy class, Smith's account moves away from wealth distinctions and focuses instead on more sophisticated forms of social judgement. This paper examines Smith's general account of fashion between the classes and then identifies the refinements to the account that he provides when he considers the operation of fashion amongst the rich. The paper suggests that the operative distinction among the wealthy is not relative wealth, but rather reputation for taste, and concludes with a discussion of the “man of taste” in Smith's account of fashion.
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Keywords: Adam Smith; class; fashion; political economy; taste

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 3, 2016

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