Skip to main content Accesibility Help


  • José M. Menudo (a1)

This paper examines James Steuart’s explanation of the emergence of commercial nations. Unlike other Scottish thinkers of the time, Steuart argues that artifice is necessary for the rise of commercial societies. He uses the term “artificial” to refer to a devised process, one that is an alternative to the supposedly natural process arising from innate propensities. The system of trade and commerce is an “artifice” created by merchants to obtain benefits, and established by the sovereign for his ostentation and personal prestige, until it became generalized as a commercial nation. Steuart’s explanation of the emergence of commercial nations accounts for how individuals become dependent on and subordinate to the public market. This paper concludes that Steuart’s Political Œconomy promotes a science of the artificial that seeks to understand the functioning of non-natural mechanisms and to create instruments that the statesman adapts to the needs and objectives of individuals.

Hide All

I would like to thank Paul Dudenhefer and Stephen Meardon for his comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this article. The paper benefitted from inspiring remarks made by three anonymous referees and several colleagues at the Charles Gide Conference (Lyon 2014). Any remaining errors are nevertheless my responsibility. This work was supported by the Regional Government of Andalusia under Grant project SEJ-246 and the Andalusian Studies Centre under Grant project PRY131/11.

Hide All
Berry, Christopher. 2013. The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Braudel, Fernand. 1979. Civilización material, economía y capitalismo, siglos XV–XVIII . Madrid: Alianza editorial.
Brewer, Anthony. 1997. “An Eighteenth-Century View of Economic Development: Hume and Steuart.” The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 4 (1): 122.
Blaney, David L., and Inayatullah, Naeem. 2010. Savage Economics: Wealth, Poverty and the Temporal Walls of Capitalism. New York: Routledge.
Cabonet, Dominique. 2001. “The Formation and Development of Commercial Society in the Economics of James Steuart.” In Porta, Pier L., Scazzieri, Roberto, and Skinner, Andrew, eds., Knowledge, Social Institutions and the Division of Labour. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 265284.
Dellemotte, Jean, and Walraevens, Benoît. 2013. “Adam Smith on the Subordination of Wage-Earners in the Commercial Society.” The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought. Accessed 12 July 2018.
Doujon, Ruhdan. 1994. “Steuart’s Position on Economic Progress.” European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 1 (3): 495518.
Eagly, Robert. 1961. “Sir James Steuart and the ‘Aspiration Effect.’” Economica 28: 5381.
Eltis, Walter. 1990. “Sir James Steuart’s Corporate State.” In Mair, Douglas, ed., The Scottish Contribution to Modern Economic Thought. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, pp. 197219.
Fleischacker, Samuel. 2004. On Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Geuma, Marco. 2002. “Republicanism and Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Case of Adam Ferguson.” In van Gelderen, M. and Skinner, Q., eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage. Vol. 2, The Values of Republicanism in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 177198.
Halévy, Elie. 1948. The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
Hollander, Samuel. 1999. “Jeremy Bentham and Adam Smith on the Usury Laws: A ‘Smithian’ Reply to Bentham and a New Problem.” The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 6 (4): 523551.
Hume, David. [1739] 1987. A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hume, David. [1752] 1987. Of Luxury. In Hume, David, Essays. Moral, Political, and Literary. Indianpolis: Liberty Fund, pp. 268280.
Israel, Jonathan. 2011. Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750–1790. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
James, Michael H. 1977. “Pierre-Louis Roederer, Jean-Baptiste Say, and the Concept of Industrie.” History of Political Economy 9 (4): 455475.
Johnson, Edgar A. J. 1937. Predecessors of Adam Smith: The Growth of British Economic Thought . New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Karayiannis, Anastassios D. 1988. “James Steuart on Distribution.” Quaderni di Storia dell’ Economia Politica 6 (2): 2550.
Karayiannis, Anastassios D. 1994. “Sir James Steuart on the Managed Market.” In Reisman, David, ed., Economic Thought and Political Theory. Norwell: Kluwer Academic Publisher, pp. 3761.
Khalil, Elias L. 1987. “Sir James Steuart vs. Professor James Buchanan: Critical Notes on Modern Public Choice.” Review of Social Economy 45 (2): 113132.
Kobayashi, Noboru. 1967. James Steuart, Adam Smith and Friedrich List . Tokyo: Science Council of Japan.
McColloch, William. 2011. “Marx’s Appreciation of James Steuart: A Theory of History and Value.” Working Paper No: 2011-09. Department of Economics, University of Utah.
Meek, Roland L. 1967. Economics and Ideology and Other Essays. London: Chapmand and Hall.
Meek, Roland L. 1973. Turgot on Progress, Sociology and Economics. London: Cambridge University Press.
Menudo, José M. 2013. “Sir James Steuart’s Theory of Justice.” Économies et Sociétés, série PE: Histoire de la pensée économique 49: 16591679.
Perelman, Michael. 2000. The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political History and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation. Durham: Duke University Press.
Piteau, Michel. 2002. “Monnaie de compte et système de paiements chez James Steuart. Quel rôle pour la stabilité bancaire?Revue économique 53 (2): 245271.
Pocock, John G. A. 1981. “Virtues, Rights, and Manners: A Model for Historians of Political Thought.” Political Theory 9 (3): 353368.
Ramos, Aida. 2007. “Economy, Empire, and Identity: Rethinking the Origins of Political Economy in Sir James Steuart’s Principles of Political Economy.” PhD dissertation, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN. Accessed 12 July 2018.
Ramos, Aida. 2011. “Luxury, Crisis and Consumption: Sir James Steuart and the Eighteenth-Century Luxury Debate.” History of Economics Review 53 (Winter): 5572.
Redman, Deborah. 1996. “Sir James Steuart’s Statesman Revisited in Light of the Continental Influence.” Scottish Journal of Political Economy 43 (1): 4870.
Rutherford, Donald. 2012. In the Shadow of Adam Smith: Founders of Scottish Economics 1700–1900. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Skinner, Andrew S. 1963. “Sir James Steuart: International Relations.” The Economic History Review 15 (3): 438450.
Skinner, Andrew S. 1966. “Introduction.” In Skinner, A. S., ed., An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Œconomy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 734.
Skinner, Andrew S. 1993. “Adam Smith: The Origin of the Exchange Economy.” The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 1 (1): 2146.
Skinner, Andrew S. 2006. “Sir James Steuart: Principles of Political Œconomy.” In Dow, A. and Dow, S., eds., History of Scottish Economic Thought. London: Routledge, pp. 71101.
Smith, Adam. [1776] 1981. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
Steuart, Sir James. [1767] 1995. An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Œconomy. London: Routledge.
Taouil, Rédouane. 1995. “The Market According to Steuart.” Cahier de Sciences Économiques 1: 5764.
Thirsk, Joan. 1978. Economic Policy and Projects: The Development of a Consumer Society in Early Modern England. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Tribe, Keith. 1988. Governing Economy: The Reformation of German Economic Discourse, 1750–1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Urquhart, Robert 1996. “The Trade Wind, the Statesman and the System of Commerce: Sir James Steuart’s Vision of Political Economy.” European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 3 (3): 379410.
Winch, Donald. 2006. “Scottish Political Economy.” In Goldie, M. and Wokler, R., eds., The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 443465.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-history-of-economic-thought
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed