By Albion Woodbury Small
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Additional resources for Adam Smith and Modern Sociology a Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences
On the other hand, Smith does not hint at the broad scope of the question, What makes a market? This is a sociological problem in the most extensive sense. Its answer must come from knowledge of the whole gamut and the most refined combinations of human desires. Li Hung Chang is reported to have said that, if he could persuade every man in China to add a couple of inches to the length of his shirt-tail, he could create a market for all the cotton grown in America. The population of China is not necessarily a market for American cotton.
Smith’s Inquiry: as they tend to illustrate a connection between his system of commercial politics [sic], and those speculations of his earlier years in which he aimed more professedly at the advancement of Page 38 ----------Albion Small, Adam Smith and Modern Sociology, 38 human improvement and happiness. It is this view of political economy that can alone render it interesting to the moralist, and can dignify calculations of profit and loss in the eye of the philosopher. Mr. Smith has alluded to it in various passages of his work, but he has nowhere explained himself fully on the subject; and the great stress he has laid on the division of labour in increasing its productive powers, seems at first sight, to point to a different and very melancholy conclusion: — that the same causes which promote the progress of the arts, tend to degrade the mind of the artist; and, of consequence, that the growth of national wealth implies a sacrifice of the character of the people.
Thus Smith’s science of wealth had relatively the same relation to his whole philosophy of life that the technique of marine architecture has to our systems of commercial and admiralty and international law. It was not a science of people in the fulness of their lives. It was merely a science of things and people considered as factors in producing the material equipment of life. I repeat that we are not at all bound to justify Smith’s classification. It is an entirely negligible matter that his analysis of moral phenomena would not now satisfy anyone.