chapter  3
Early English theological roots of political economy 1
ByPaul Oslington
Pages 17

This chapter is about the 18th-century English background to the rise of political economy, but much of the motivation comes from a Scot, Adam Smith, or at least the role that Smith plays in standard histories of economic thought. The tale that is often told is of Smith creating political economy ex-nihilo, and then passing it on to the English who tidied up some theoretical loose ends and professionalised it. Theology is the crucial ingredient in this rewriting of the connections between 18th-century English economic thinking and the successful emergence of political economy in 19th-century Britain. Among the many 18th-century English philosophers who discussed economic questions, the chapter concentrates on Joseph Butler, Josiah Tucker, William Paley and Edmund Burke because the historical connections are clear with Hume and Smith, along with the direct connections with important 19th-century English political economists. Butler and Paley exerted a particularly important influence on 19th-century English political economy independently of Smith.