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Will the Real A. Smith Please Stand Up!

Author

Listed:
  • Matthias P. Hühn

    (CEIBS)

  • Claus Dierksmeier

    (University of Tübingen)

Abstract

In both the public and the business world, in academe as well as in practice, the ideas of Adam Smith are regarded as the bedrock of modern economics. When present economic conditions and management practices are criticised, Adam Smith is referred to by defenders and detractors of the current status quo alike. Smith, it is believed, defined the essential terms of reference of these debates, such as the rational pursuit of self-interest on part of the individual and the resultant optimal allocation of goods in free markets thanks to the workings of an “invisible hand.” In this article, we question whether this standard view of Smith, the economist, is tenable. We provide an extensive review of the extant secondary literature from economists, business ethicists, and philosophers, comparing their assessments to crucial elements of Smith’s theoretical system. As a result, we show that Smith, far from being an advocate of a value-free or even value-averse conception of economic transactions, stood for a virtue-based and values-oriented model of business. Accordingly, we argue current management education and the pedagogy of business ethics ought to be changed, and certain strategic conclusions drawn for business practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias P. Hühn & Claus Dierksmeier, 2016. "Will the Real A. Smith Please Stand Up!," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 119-132, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:136:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s10551-014-2506-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-014-2506-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Lynn, 2022. "Ethics, Economics, and the Specter of Naturalism: The Enduring Relevance of the Harmony Doctrine School of Economics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 178(3), pages 661-673, July.
    2. Johan Graafland & Thomas R. Wells, 2021. "In Adam Smith’s Own Words: The Role of Virtues in the Relationship Between Free Market Economies and Societal Flourishing, A Semantic Network Data-Mining Approach," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 172(1), pages 31-42, August.
    3. Dirk C. Moosmayer & Sandra Waddock & Long Wang & Matthias P. Hühn & Claus Dierksmeier & Christopher Gohl, 2019. "Leaving the Road to Abilene: A Pragmatic Approach to Addressing the Normative Paradox of Responsible Management Education," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 157(4), pages 913-932, July.
    4. Kévin André & Sylvain Bureau & Arthur Gautier & Olivier Rubel, 2017. "Beyond the Opposition Between Altruism and Self-interest: Reciprocal Giving in Reward-Based Crowdfunding," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 146(2), pages 313-332, December.
    5. Rıdvan Karacan & Mehmet Emin Yardımcı, 2024. "Free market economy: Is the market or prices free? Theory and evidence from the United States," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 83(1), pages 59-74, January.
    6. Albert D. Spalding & Gretchen R. Lawrie, 2019. "A Critical Examination of the AICPA’s New “Conceptual Framework” Ethics Protocol," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(4), pages 1135-1152, April.
    7. Michael Pirson, 2020. "A Humanistic Narrative for Responsible Management Learning: An Ontological Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 162(4), pages 775-793, April.
    8. Matthias P. Hühn, 2019. "Adam Smith’s Philosophy of Science: Economics as Moral Imagination," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 1-15, March.

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