Home > Uncategorized > As Newton to Galileo; so Marx to Adam Smith

As Newton to Galileo; so Marx to Adam Smith

Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”   Many scholars have assumed that principal among these giants was Galileo.    I suggest that Marx stood on the shoulders of Smith in the same metaphorical respect.  One of Marx’s feet was placed on the shoulder of Smith with respect to labor theory of value, which Smith so staunchly defended against the physiocrats of the ancienne regime.  The other foot was placed on Smith’s other shoulder, an understanding ot the inevitability of class conflict.

Here the metaphore breaks down, because we run out of shoulders.  Other important components of Smith’s theory, were as compatible with Marx as they were irreconcilable with the theories of Thomas Jefferson.  Smith was opposed to slavery, on economic and on moral grounds, while Thomas Jefferson defended it at length in Notes on the State of Virginia.  Smith understood the importance of the industrial process and the legitimate moral claims of the artisans and mechanics, who were objects of Jefferson’s profoundest contempt.

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