Das Adam Smith Problem and Faculty Psychology in the Antebellum North
AbstractThis essay addresses the question of what happened when the Adam Smith problem of industrializing Europe met the faculty psychology of antebellum America. Although it was not called the Adam Smith problem until the late nineteenth century, the fact that Smith wrote two books instead of one has always posed difficulties for those seeking integrity between the ethical and the economical. For two groups of antebellum Protestants—the “clerical economists” and the “pastoral moralists”—this is where faculty psychology came in. Employing the tripartite scheme of conscience, self-interest, and passions, both of these groups nevertheless sought a moral order that was binary. In other words, they wanted to understand the world in terms of good and evil—of what kind of commercial behavior was permissible and what was not. The difference, unsurprisingly, was over what each group thought about self-interest, the faculty that occupied the middle position. For their part, the clerical economists lumped self-interest in with conscience as partners in the noble republican struggle to keep the passions of individuals in check. The two were not the same, but they were close enough to serve this same utilitarian purpose. The pastoral moralists, on the other hand, wanted to divide faculty psychology's tripartite scheme in half. In their collective understanding, self-interest could go in either direction. The pastoral moralists therefore sought the point at which an individual's healthy and natural self-interest crossed the line and, as one of them put it, passed “without heeding it, the boundary which separates virtue from vice.”
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Duke University Press in its journal History of Political Economy.
Volume (Year): 40 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5 (Supplement)
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Duke University Press 905 W. Main Street, Suite 18B Durham, NC 27701
Phone: (919) 660-1800
Fax: (919) 684-8974
Web page: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?viewby=journal&productid=45614
Adam Smith; protestant;
You can help add them by filling out this form.
reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Center for the History of Political Economy Webmaster).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.