Summary of Who's Afraid of Adam Smith?

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Who's Afraid of Adam Smith? book summary


8 Overall

3 Applicability

9 Innovation

10 Style


Peter J. Dougherty has written a breezy tour of modern economics, concentrating on attempts to reconnect the dismal science with its roots in civil studies and moral philosophy. Although he is not an economist, he displays an easy familiarity with economics’ big ideas and their authors, and communicates them with style and wit. Dougherty’s knowledge of the field is broad, thanks to his decades of experience as an economics editor, but thankfully he does not bog readers down in the technical details. His book stresses the importance of social capital as well as the profit motive, and of strong civic institutions and communities as well as corporations. He offers a refreshing perspective in an era of corporate scandals and cautionary tales of greed. This slim volume contains no specific lessons that can be applied by individuals, but rather a dose of hope that capitalism can indeed encourage the best in people and companies, when institutions and incentives are properly designed by a democratic society. suggests this book to non-economists who want a quick course in the economic and social potential of democratic capitalism.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, became an accomplished moral philosopher;
  • How his overlooked philosophical writings are important to today’s economics; and
  • How the work of modern economists is reconnecting capitalism’s machinery with its soul, just as Smith envisioned.

About the Author

Peter J. Dougherty is publisher and senior economics editor of Princeton University Press. His occasional writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Journal of Economic Literature, Economics and Portfolio Strategy, the Chronicle of Higher Education and The American Sociologist.



Adam Smith, Economist and Philosopher
Many people, even intellectuals, think of economics as a dry discipline, overburdened with statistics and divorced from reality. In fact, economics is fundamental to our modern world. Economists have contributed substantially to the developed world...

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