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Systems of LifeBiopolitics, Economics, and Literature on the Cusp of Modernity$
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Richard A. Barney and Warren Montag

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823281725

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823281725.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2019

System and Subject in Adam Smith’s Political Economy: Nature, Vitalism, and Bioeconomic Life

System and Subject in Adam Smith’s Political Economy: Nature, Vitalism, and Bioeconomic Life

Chapter:
(p.93) Four System and Subject in Adam Smith’s Political Economy: Nature, Vitalism, and Bioeconomic Life
Source:
Systems of Life
Author(s):

Catherine Packham

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823281725.003.0005

This paper discusses the role of “systems” in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, reading this foundational text of political economy as elaborating a system that linked national prosperity to the lives, bodies, and even health, of its subjects. Specifically, it explores the role of vitalism in eighteenth-century human sciences and addresses how a vitalist conception of life informs Smith’s economic system, with consequences for the way Smith theorizes labor, the human subject, and the relationship between subject and economic system. Political economy is thus demonstrated to be, at its inception, a bioeconomic practice. It concludes by considering the relations among nature, political economy, and imagination in Smith’s thought, and suggests that “nature” in Smithian political economy offers both the possibility of system and the potential for its own critique.

Keywords:   bioeconomics, nature, political economy, Adam Smith, systems, vitalism

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