publication . Article . 2009

Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth

Gavin Kennedy;
Open Access
  • Published: 01 Jan 2009 Journal: Econ Journal Watch, volume 6, issue 2 May, pages 239-263
Adam Smith and the ‘invisible hand’ are nearly synonymous in modern economic thinking. Adam Smith is strongly associated with the invisible hand, understood as a general rule that people in realising their self-interests unintentionally benefit the public good. The attribution to Smith is challengeable. Adam Smith’s use of the metaphor was much more modest; it was re-invented in the 1930s and 1940s onwards to bolster mathematical treatments of capitalism (Samuelson, Friedman) and to support innovative analysis by associating the metaphor with ‘spontaneous order’ (Hayek). The effect has been to ignore insightful explanations about how markets function a...
free text keywords: Adam Smith,invisible hand,metaphor, jel:A13, jel:B0, jel:B1
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