Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx

Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx

On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy

Spencer J. Pack

Spencer Pack compares and contrasts Aristotle’s, Smith’s and Marx’s theoretical systems on six fundamental issues: exchange value, money, capital, character, government, and change. This book also provides insights on issues concerning the continuing development of world money, saving, managerial capitalism, corrupt governments, and various secular and religious movements for social change.

Chapter 4: Adam Smith on Exchange Value and Money

Spencer J. Pack

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


SMITH ON EXCHANGE VALUE: CLARITY AMIDST THE AMBIGUITY I think it is fair to say that Smith was quite impressed by Aristotle. Smith, who generally cannot be correctly accused of being overly generous to his predecessors,1 writes of Aristotle: ‘that great philosopher [Aristotle], who appears to have been so much superior to his master [Plato] in everything but eloquence’ (‘History of Ancient Logics and Metaphysics’, 1980: 122fn).2 The ethics in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) seems to be heavily influenced by Aristotle’s work in that field, especially in the areas of the importance of moderation and hitting upon the proper mean between contrary passions. Smith himself claims that ‘It is unnecessary to observe that this [Aristotle’s] account of virtue corresponds too pretty exactly with what has been said above concerning the propriety and impropriety of conduct’ (TMS: 271).3 Moreover, just as Aristotle’s work in Politics is tightly linked to his work in the Eudemian and Nicomachean Ethics, so Smith’s ideas on government and jurisprudence are closely linked to Smith’s ethics. At the very end of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith promises: I shall in another discourse endeavour to give an account of the general principles of law and government, and of the different revolutions they have undergone in the different ages and periods of society, not only in what concerns justice, but in what concerns police, revenue, and arms, and whatever else is 1 See Rashid (1998: 200–208), Chapter 9, ‘The Intellectual Standards of...

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