Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Philosophy

Advisor

Omar Dahbour

Committee Members

Linda Martín Alcoff

Michael Menser

Catherine Wilson

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | History of Philosophy | Philosophy

Keywords

Markets, Republicanism, Economic Democracy, Eighteenth Century Philosophy

Abstract

This dissertation examines how eighteenth century thinkers Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant defended the value of free markets. It reconstructs their defense of liberal economic reforms, including free trade (domestic and foreign) and the deregulation of markets in labor and land. Through this reconstruction, I demonstrate how the normative foundations of early free market thought were contested throughout the period. Pro-market thinkers (e.g. Turgot, Smith, and Kant) viewed economic liberalization as a mechanism that increased the economic freedoms of individuals, whereas critics of the market, including Richard Price and other “agrarian republican” thinkers, concluded that liberal reform diminished opportunities for material self-sufficiency and independence. Contemporary scholars, who often emphasize the egalitarian commitments of eighteenth century pro-market thinkers, have largely downplayed the significance of this latter group of thinkers and their egalitarian proposals for agrarian reform (which Turgot, Smith and Kant did not support). In contrast, this dissertation contends that although the agrarian republican outlook constituted a path not taken in the history of economic thought, the conceptualization of economic freedom as a form of nondomination and material self-sufficiency remains an important idea for contemporary discussions of economic justice.

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