The Inexorable Sociality of Commerce: The Individual and Others in Adam Smith

David Bevan (First Author), Patricia Werhane (Participant Author)

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    9 Citations (Web of Science)


    In this paper we reconsider Adam Smith’s ethics, what he means by self-interest and the role this plays in the famous “invisible hand.” Our efforts focus in part on the misreading of “the invisible hand” by certain economists with a view to legitimizing their neoclassical economic paradigm. Through exegesis and by reference to notions that are developed in Smith’s two major works, we deconstruct Smith’s ideas of conscience, justice, self-interest, and the invisible hand. We amplify Smith’s insistence, through his notions of the virtues, that as human beings, and by analogy, organizations, we are intrinsically social, rather than selfish and or egoistically self-centered. Thus, we have responsibilities to and because of others. We conclude that such a managerialist preoccupation with shareholder value is challenged, if not completely refuted, by taking seriously the social character of Smith’s complex vision of commerce.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)327-335
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Corresponding author email


    • Adam Smith
    • Self-interest
    • The invisible hand fallacy
    • The sociality of commerce

    Indexed by

    • ABDC-A
    • Scopus
    • SSCI


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