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Economic Sentiments

Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment

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$37.00 • £32.95 • €33.95

ISBN 9780674008373

Publication Date: 04/30/2002


368 pages

5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches


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One of the most original and mind-altering academic works of the past decade.—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

One of the many virtues of Economic Sentiments is that it provides exactly what its subtitle says: an investigation of “Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment.” Another, even more attractive than an unusual degree of truth in advertising, is that it casts an extraordinarily revealing light on many other writers and many other moments in history. It is a book that does with great success two things that are usually thought to be wholly antithetical; certainly they are rarely attempted by the same writer. On the one hand, it takes us back into the last third of the eighteenth century, and shows us what economic thinking was like before it became modern economic theory, on the other, it complicates the image of the Enlightenment in ways that are intended to make the political discussions of the twenty-first century more sophisticated, nuanced, and self-conscious than they often are.—Alan Ryan, New York Review of Books

In her readable as well as scholarly book, Economic Sentiments, [Rothschild] links [Adam] Smith with the French philosopher the Marquis de Condorcet, another thinker seen today as an emblem of “cold hard and rational enlightenment” but in reality interested, like Smith, “in economic life as a process of discussion, and as a process of emancipation,” in which “one’s freedom to buy or sell or lend or travel or work is difficult to distinguish from the rest of one’s freedom.” This larger picture, Rothschild thinks, is what was lost as economics developed along with the society it analyzed, and what she hopes to restore.—Paul Mattick, New York Times Book Review

A lucid and historical account of one of the finest achievements of the European Enlightenment, the application of the new science of political economy to the solving of real problems. Emma Rothschild shows that modern free-marketeers who neglect the political and moral aspects of Adam Smith’s writings are unfair to the man whose name they have hijacked.The Economist

This landmark work revisits the intellectual ferment of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries...[Rothschild] dismantles, with quiet authority, the stereotype of the Enlightenment as a period dominated by chilly rationalists.New Yorker

Economic historians often discuss the half century after 1770 with barely a nod (or none at all) to the political revolutions. Emma Rothschild, however, turns that convention on its head. Her book examines the period from the vantage point of two of the most influential economic writers of the time—Adam Smith and the Marquis de Condorcet—and their followers...The book’s distinctive approach brings real and unexpected insights.—William Kennedy, Times Higher Education Supplement

In her brilliantly illuminating and compelling reinterpretation of Adam Smith and Condorcet, Emma Rothschild presents a view of late 18th century ideas through which we can ourselves re-envision the human realities of life in the market. In so doing, she has produced a masterpiece of the historical imagination. First and foremost, Economic Sentiments is a rich, profound and at times revelatory essay in the history of ideas which will undoubtedly become part of the academic canon. But it is also an inspiring commentary on our own times, which can be read with profit by many outside the academy.—John Gray, Los Angeles Times

One must look hard to find a work so adept at doing the vigorous hermeneutics required to truly understand what drove the 18th-century Enlightenment and how that era impacts our thinking today. Rothschild roams across the landscape of thinkers and historical events focusing on Condorcet as an example of the “cold, universalistic enlightenment of the French Revolution” and on Smith, who appears as the more conservative proponent of the “reductionist enlightenment of laissez-faire economics.” Along the way the reader is challenged to rethink the positive-normative dichotomy commonly taught in economics, the meaning and role of Smith’s “invisible hand” and the self-serving manner in which 19th-century interpreters framed Smith’s ideas...There is exceptional depth to this book...[It] has interdisciplinary appeal, systematically relying on literary, philosophical, political, economic, natural science, and sometimes theological disciplines to build arguments. Highly recommended.—J. Halteman, Choice

A powerful and original reconsideration of the thinking of Smith and Condorcet. Delightfully fresh, sensitive, sensible and wide-ranging. A wonderfully evocative, even lyrical book. This is a scholarly achievement of a very high order. It will be of substantial interest to specialists in a range of fields within the humanities and social sciences, who will be obliged in reading it to think again about many conventional views within their disciplines. But it should also reach a broader audience among all those concerned with how we should think about economics and politics in a new century full of uncertainties and insecurities.—Keith Baker, Stanford University

We have all read Adam Smith and we all think we know him well. But this text, in its emphasis on the period after 1776 and its coverage of related works from other nations, is full of revelations and delicious quotes from unstudied sources.—David S. Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

Rothschild’s richly complex and deeply informed account of the writings of Adam Smith and of the Marquis du Condorcet locates them more closely in their own time and, by so doing, changes their significance for us today. The monolithic view of the cold, inhuman Enlightenment, propagated by the early nineteenth-century Romantics, is undercut by close analysis and understanding of the political and social contexts. The book is a triumph of scholarship and reinterpretation, as well as a model of expository prose.—Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University

An elegant, sympathetic and original re-envisioning of the Enlightenment’s two greatest economic theorists with significant implications for our own economic politics today. —Linda Colley, London School of Economics

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