Reconciling Economy with Philosophy: Amartya Sen’s Reading of Adam Smith


Adam Smith is known as the most important theorist of the market economy and the founder of modern economics. However, there is a literature around Smith’s thoughts which are not compatible with each other. In this literature, Smith is brought into an object of ideological debate depending on the preferences of the political economists. Amartya Sen’s thought about Smith is remarkable. According to Sen, the thought of Smith is misinterpreted in contemporary economic theory. This misinterpretation continues today through several themes such as rationality of human behavior, market economy and the role of state in the economy. The claims in Smith’s writing is not based on self-interest, but is addressed to sympathy and general rules of behavior. The role of state in regulating market is presented in Smith’s analysis. According to Sen, how to establish a tolerant society and the tips of how to take place the idea of justice are also available in Smith’s thoughts. Sen’s reading of Smith has two connotations: one of them is discipliner and the other one is politics. The discipliner connotation which is developed based on Smith is Sen’s reading and enhancement requests of economics discipline outside a narrow framework. The political connotation is implicit criticism of economic liberalism. In this study, the ideational influence of Adam Smith on Amartya Sen is examined. The effect gives an opportunity to understand the thriving commercial community and philosophical base of economics discipline.


Adam Smith Amartya Sen Self-interest Prudence Social justice