IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Adam Smith’s Newtonianism



Smith was certainly influenced by Newton’s analytic-synthetic method, and by his notion of “principle”. Nonetheless, in many fields of Smith’s inquiry he introduced elements which led him far from the Newtonian perspective. The present essay analyzes how historical dimensions, contingencies, institutions and conflicting human inclinations intervene in Smith’s discourse explaining economic systems. From this perspective, the intellectual Newtonian horizon seems to be profoundly modified. Finally, the paper focuses on how, in Smith’s view, institutions determine “unintended outcomes”, sometimes opposed to those of the market, when the reasons for their emergence have ceased but nevertheless persist over time. In this sense, the “invisible hand” is not only the result of the behaviour of myopic individuals trying to improve their condition, but also the outcome of the work of institutions which operate as structures autonomous with respect to individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Fiori Stefano, 2010. "Adam Smith’s Newtonianism," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201006, University of Turin.
  • Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. van de Walle, Dominique, 2004. "Testing Vietnam's public safety net," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 661-679, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201006. See general 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: (Piero Cavaleri) or (Marina Grazioli). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.