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date: 06 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Adam Smith is often cited as one of the intellectual forefathers of the concept of civil society. Although there is undeniable truth to this characterization, this chapter seeks to illuminate the major differences between Smith’s vision of civil society and contemporary appropriations. Unlike latter-day communitarians, social scientists, or Marxians who define civil society as the realm of the voluntary and private, or as the structural antithesis of the state, Smith’s account represents a complex blend of moral, historical, legal, sociological, and economic elements. In particular, understanding the nature and origins of a civil society requires a fuller attention to the moral virtue of civility.

Keywords: Adam Smith, civility, manners, virtue, civil society

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