Is Justice the Primary Feature of the State? Adam Smith's Critique of Social Contract Theory

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Abstract

In light of the question of whether justice is the differentia specifica of the state, this paper reviews Smith's views on justice and social contract theory. The paper finds that Smith did not regard justice, what supposedly motivates agents to enter into a social contract with the sovereign, as the core of the polity. He rather explicitly criticized social contract theory à la John Locke. Smith argued that the state is not only based on the protection of rights, but is also founded on the principle of authority, which stems from the admiration of high-rank agents who have desirable traits.

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