ABSTRACT

Liberalism is a notoriously elusive notion, largely because it is extremely difficult to circumscribe and define accurately its terms of reference. It has been variously employed to denote an organized political tendency, a cultural allegiance to certain values intrinsic to Western civilization, and the ideology of capitalism. For as a consciously espoused set of ideas it increasingly came to describe a new type of social order related to a novel mode of production that was in marked contrast to either feudalism or the ancient republics. If liberal theorists sought to come to terms with the social, economic, and political implications of the emergent capitalist system, it would be excessively reductive to regard their writings as contributions to a unitary body of principles dubbed the capitalist ideology. Robertson argues that Smith’s awareness of this conflict of interests formed the basis for his treatment of the relationship between government and the economy.