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Contemporary conceptual space: reading Adam Smith

David John Farmer (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 September 1997



This paper encourages an examination of the conceptual space which Adam Smith’s work and legacy present and which conditions thinking about governmental and societal organization and management. The paper, situating Smith in his eighteenth‐century context, distinguishes between the historical Smith and his legacy. It analyzes the invisible hand doctrine, showing that the doctrine should be understood in the context of Smith’s other writings and arguing that Smith himself would reject the version which many suppose to constitute the Smithian legacy. It emphasizes the importance of the Smithian legacy, and it argues that Smith’s readers should go beyond Smith by recognizing the socially constituted character of the conceptual space which Smith’s writings and legacy have provided to contemporary society. A central implication is that, by exploring Adam Smith and his legacy, governmental and other thinkers and managers can do what they should do ‐ examine their latent assumptions.



Farmer, D.J. (1997), "Contemporary conceptual space: reading Adam Smith", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 246-255.




Copyright © 1997, Company

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