Kapelyushnikov Rostislav
Multihanded Adam Smith (Part two)
Publication Type:


DOI 10.32609/0042-8736-2023-11-123-140

The paper analyzes the metaphor of “an invisible hand”, which was introduced two and a half centuries ago by Adam Smith (1723—1790) and which eventually became the central concept of the modern economics. The second part examines the origin and history of the reception of Smith’s metaphor at various stages of the evolution of economic thought. Paradoxically, it gained wide popularity only since the middle of the 20th century due to its mention in the famous textbook by P. Samuelson “Economics”. In the interpretation of this metaphor by modern economists, two traditions exist — neoclassical and Austrian. In mainstream, Smith’s “invisible hand” is identified with the First Fundamental Theorem of welfare economics, which looks like an anachronism. There are more grounds for the convergence of the concepts of “an invisible hand” and “spontaneous order”, from which the Austrian school proceeds. Smith almost accidentally stumbled upon a figurative expression which turned out to be heuristically extremely productive and has become firmly embedded in the lexicon of many modern disciplines — from economics to the philosophy of science.


Keywords: Adam Smith | invisible hand | unintended results | coordination | spontaneous order |



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