The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
6 December 2019, 4.30pm - 6.30pm
Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Adam Smith and the Origins of Liberal Political Leadership. 

Eric Schliesser (Amsterdam)  



In this paper, I present Adam Smith’s views on political leadership. I argue that he articulates an account of political leadership that has distinctive, liberal features. In particular, such a leader must embrace a conception in which the happiness of all citizens is pursued and to do so in a way that makes possible non-zero-sum policies. That is, such a leader must presuppose non-trivial moral commitments. I show that Smith embraces a conception of good governance in which a certain kind of moral improvement of citizens is prioritized. I do not mean to suggest that a Smithian (proper) leader is primarily concerned with soul-craft, that is, an approach to governance that aims to make citizens moral. Rather, she aims to encourage a good society. My analysis of Smith’s account is illuminated by his treatment of the nature and causes of bad leadership (some of which dishearteningly familiar). 

The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political,and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Amanda Greene (UCL) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome.   


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