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Wealth of Nations: A Selected Edition (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 17 Apr 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; A Selected Edition edition (17 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199535922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535927
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

the selection of material is judicious and the commentary brilliant and entertaining (Mark Davis, Professor of Mathematics, Imperial College London)

From the Inside Flap

The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith
It is symbolic that Adam Smith's masterpiece of economic analysis, The Wealth of Nations, was first published in 1776, the same year as the "Declaration of Independence.
In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations provided the first--and still the most eloquent--integrated description of the workings of a market economy.
The result of Smith's efforts is a witty, highly readable work of genius filled with prescient theories that form the basis of a thriving capitalist system. This unabridged edition offers the modern reader a fresh look at a timeless and seminal work that revolutionized the way governments and individuals view the creation and dispersion of wealth--and that continues to influence our economy right up to the present day. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback
I can only describe this particular edition of Wealth of Nations as a useful crash course on Adam Smith's discourse, mindful of the fact that there were five editions of this historically significant work. But then that's the beauty of this condensed compendium.

Most editions available in the market draw on Smith's Wealth of Nation Volume I (Of the causes of improvement), Volume II (Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock) and Volume III (Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations) at the most. However, this edition contains healthy inclusions from Book IV (Of Systems of political Economy) and Book V (Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth). For this alone, the editor Kathryn Sutherland deserves credit.

It is not a mouthful but a practical handy book on Wealth of Nations. Those who have never studied economics would enjoy reading it too if they are so inclined, especially students of history and philosophy. Since this is a complex work authored over two hundred years ago, the editor's footnotes and references enhance comprehension.

Yet the wonderful details of Smith's key thoughts have not been stifled in any way - working of the markets, division of labour, general prosperity, government and taxation are all there. In essence, Wealth of Nations remains a true classic and I found this edition of it to be an easy and enjoyable read. Overall, its a handy reference book to have on your bookshelf.
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Format: Hardcover
Nice binding, cover, typesetting. It's only missing one thing - the contents: unfortunately this edition only contains the first four books. Book five, which deals with taxation has been omitted in order to release a lower priced, single volume edition.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An abridged version of the five volumes comprising "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations", first published in 1776 on the eve of the American War of Independence, there are nevertheless 454 pages in this edition, supported by a forty-five page introduction and almost 150 pages of notes.

The introduction, by Kathryn Sutherland, explains the structure of Smith's argument across those five volumes and why she included those elements that she did. It situates Smith's work in the intellectual context of the time. Sutherland, interestingly, is not an economist but a specialist in bibliography and textual criticism, and this may explain her greater interest in the background to Smith's ideas than in identifying the originality of his thought. As her excellent notes make clear, Smith drew on the work of many earlier writers. One of Smith's most famous examples, illustrating the importance of the division of labour into specialised but simpler tasks, pin making, is traced to an essay published by Denis Diderot in Paris in 1755. Much of his thinking on the nature of money was based on theories of John Locke writing almost a century earlier. It was interesting to discover so many of Smith's examples from the economy in the remoter parts of Scotland, often used as an example of a less developed economy than in England, were based on observations by Dr Samuel Johnson, notwithstanding that Adam Smith himself was a Scotsman, and Johnson an (adopted) Londoner who famously quipped that the finest sight in Scotland was the road to England! David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, du Halde, Mandeville are also extensively referenced, and Smith's many references to the classics and to trades and professions long since forgotten are fully explained.
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Format: Paperback
This is the concluding two 'books' of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which originally appeared in five 'books' in 1776 and is a classic description of an early capitalist economy where agriculture is still a prominent feature. The original Penguin edition from the 1970s had only the first three books, apparently on the assumption that these were the most relevant to technical economic theory, which at that time was associated with Keynes and highly regarded. Of course back in those days, with the Soviet Union still on the go, the labour theory of value was reckoned a precursor of Marxism and that's in the first three books too.

Nowadays though, Smith's concluding attack on state expenditure in Book five, which is excellently written, grabs most attention. The idea is that, having covered creation of wealth, he now covers taxation and government spending. He argues that a market economy should be allowed to grow with light regulation and limited assistance from public works and education. The application of the idea of self-interest to the design of systems where it works to social advantage is also relevant to modern economic theories of system design. Book four is a review of preceding economic theory.

So the modern reader new to Smith has the choice of looking for a one-volume edition of the whole five books or going for this two-volume version. You would still get something out of the rhetoric of book five on its own, though I'd recommend perhaps reading that first, but still looking at the whole thing to get the most out of it.
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Format: Paperback
This 18th Century book is a well-reasoned broadside against mercantilism and state-run monopolies. Suprisingly, it is incredibly easy-to-read, even compared to modern fiction novels, and you can just open it and let your eyes fall where they may. Vital reading for those who promote or oppose the free-market. Read about capitalism from a temperate, intellectual proponent, rather than a right-wing extremist or left-wing radical. Also, important details on the living standards of the factory worker in 18th Century England from someone who actually lived in those times, rather than biased guesswork on the part of later 19th Century writers - it'll change your perspective!
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