Adam Smiths’ Republican Moment: Lessons for Today’s Emancipatory Thought and Action
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Adam Smith takes a stand that clearly differs from that of the doctrinaire liberalism that would take shape in the first third of the 19th Century. He does not imagine that social life takes place in a neutral, politically aseptic space, free of power relations in which people freely and voluntarily enter into contracts. Indeed, the portrait Smith offers of social life shows a world riven by classes, one that is rigidly compartmentalised into strata and ranks, the distinctions between which have certain identifiable social and historical origins. Adam Smith believes – knows – then, that social life can harbour, that it does harbour asymmetries of power and it is necessary to do away with these if the aim is to preserve the good of society as a whole. In brief, liberty can be called “natural” but in no case is it pre-social or exogenous to social life. It is endogenous to it. Freedom is achieved and politically maintained in the bosom of social life, in the bosom of what could come to be an effectively civil society.