Sep 28, 2012
44 notes
Recall here what Smith was trying to do when he wrote THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. Above all, the book was an attempt to establish the newfound discipline of economics as a science. This mean that not only did economics have its own peculiar domain of study - what we now call “the economy,” though the idea that there even was something called an “economy” was nvery new in Smith’s day - but that this economy operated according to laws of much the same sort as Sir Isaac Newton had so recently identified as governing the physical world. Newton had represented God as a cosmic watchmaker who had created the physical machinery of the universe in such a way that it would operate for the ultimate benefit of humans, and then let it run on its own. Smith was trying to make a similar, Newtonian argument. God - or Divine Providence -, as he put it - had arranged matters in such a way that our pursuit of self-interest would nonetheless, given an unfettered market, bu guided “as if by an invisible hand” to promote the general welfare. Smith’s famous invisible hand was, as he says in his THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS, the agent of Divine Providence. It was literally the hand of God.

David Graeber Debt: The first 5,000 Years

THIS IS AMAZING and totally up my alley as per my interest in the intersections of metaphysics and economics. I wrote about the fight between Proudhon and Marx last winter (which I felt like reading again tonight any1want to publish eet?) as dealing with a whole bunch of the same issues, but in terms of idealism vs. materialism.

I also just read in the footnotes that Smith MIGHT have been influenced by medieval Islam and I have a feeling that this particular strain Graeber is referring to is the occasionalist one. Occasionalism is basically just the thesis that no two objects touch without God providing the medium of their touching (obvs more complicated than this). God then is a kind of ontological relation machine. This has some very interesting links with what Harman calls Latour’s “secular occasionalism” and Whitehead’s process philosophy, which is very occasionalist. 

Anyways: Was Adam Smith Medeval Islam’s Mugatu? A lame white guy appropriating / decontextualizing stuff to sell to other boring white people??? 


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Nonstop Maoist hymns, patriotic power ballads & shrill exhortations at all hours. Toronto-based PhD Student in Communication & Culture @ Ryerson/York.

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