Shaping Religious Institutions for Liberty
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Adam Smith

How to Cite

Shaping Religious Institutions for Liberty: Prudential Considerations from Adam Smith. (2023). The Political Science Reviewer, 47(1), 381-408.


Adam Smith’s attention to prudence marks him out as a liberal thinker who is unbound by the rigidity that sometimes accompanies the invocation of various rights. This article connects Smith’s analysis of establishment to problems in religion and politics in the history of political thought and statecraft. In addition, this article shows that Smith was sensitive to the crucial jurisdictional controversies concerning religion and politics that became more pressing with the advent of the great claims of the monotheistic religions. Smith can help us better understand the jurisdictional answers that have been presupposed by dominant lines of economic and political philosophy up to our own day. Smith points prudential political actors who share his normative goals to accommodate the prejudices of the people while ensuring that religious enthusiasms, overly rigorous moral systems, and strong institutional challenges to the power of the state and individual liberty are kept to a minimum.

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