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Abstract: To understand Smith’s thinking about historical progress as a mechanism channeling private interests in favour of public benefit is mislead by a shortened reading of his texts. To grasp a more accurate picture of Smith’s conception of progress one should ask why Smith put overall economic growth into the center of his economic thinking. The answer cannot be found by interpreting this proposition as a concession to the „invisible hand“, to an assumed necessary beneficial effect of individual wealth striving on the public good, which Smith discribes as the flourishing of „liberty, reason, and happiness of mankind“ and puts under the protection of a „civil government“. To Smith economic growth appears as a condition for the possible set-up of such a „civil government“. But today further economic growth can only be partial and at the expense of others. It cannot be a prerequisite for the flourishing of „liberty, reason, and hapiness of mankind“ anymore if not complemented by degrowth.
Keywords: invisible hand, growth, degrowth
Narrative step: Organizing society