Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 8, 2017

Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence – Justice, Law, and the Moral Economy

Walter J Kendall
From the journal ICL Journal


Adam Smith, a leading thinker of the British Enlightenment, is universally known as the author of the ‘Wealth of Nations’ and an economic theorist. He is less well known as the author of ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ and an ethicist. And known almost not at all for his ‘Lectures on Jurisprudence’ or as a legal theorist.

This essay looks at Smith’s thought through the lens of his Lectures on Jurisprudence. It highlights the almost paradoxical positions Smith had on self-interest, markets, govern­ment, and economic expansion. Obscured by his reputation and these paradoxes are his views on justice, equality, and power. This essay concludes that Smith’s ‘justice’ is deficient and no substitute for the ‘bread nexus’ of the moral economy.

Published Online: 2017-2-8
Published in Print: 2014-12-1

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston