Egalitarian sympathies? Adam Smith and Sophie de Grouchy on inequality and social order

Robin Douglass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyses Adam Smith's and Sophie de Grouchy's accounts of sympathy to show how they arrive at strikingly different views on whether inequality is a threat to, or precondition of, social order. Where many scholars have recently sought to recover Smith's egalitarianism, I instead focus on how his
account of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments naturalises socioeconomic inequalities, while also highlighting the wider inegalitarian implications of his analysis. I demonstrate that Grouchy was alert to these implications and reveal how her own account of sympathy challenges the moral psychology underlying Smith's position on inequality. By reconstructing Grouchy's
response to Smith, I illustrate how retrieving the insights of long-overlooked thinkers can reorient the way we understand key debates in the history of philosophy, since Grouchy was far more concerned than Smith with exposing how economic inequality imperils the prospects of relating to one another as equals.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date23 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Apr 2023


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