Power and Poverty: Social Legislation in the Years of Adam Smith

  • Cosma Orsi
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought book series (PHET)


From 1782 to 1834, the English social legislation shifted from a safety net devised to deal with emergencies to a social security system implemented to cope with the threat of unemployment and poverty. This chapter analyses the role played by distinguished eighteenth-century British economic thinkers, in particular Adam Smith, in the process of achieving a socio-economic environment whereby power relations between the rich and poor would be different from those sustained by the Mercantilist’s utility of the poor. To what extent could Smith’s theorising on poverty and inequality be regarded as a map for the legislator to design and implement policies meant to transform a social environment geared around social relationships based on the authority-subjection pair, into a less unequal and more inclusive one?


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Cosma Orsi
    • 1
  1. 1.Catholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly

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