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The two are great political philosophers and sociologists whose works have influenced a lot of people. The work of Adam Smith on The Wealth of Nations has made tremendous changes in economics, governments and other fields especially his concept of the ‘invisible hand’. Rousseau’s work on social contract is also of great influence. Both believe social development took place in stages but differ on what these stages comprised of and on the role of social contract among others. For Smith the progress of society occurs when individuals are left free to conduct their affairs but for Rousseau, progress occurs when people’s interests are safeguarded by a sovereign. They both agree that division of labor is important in order to make progress but it also results in inequalities in society. Since both give an account of historical development of society, how do they differ in their explanations and which of the two theories is better in explaining this account of social change? This is a question that will be delved into in this piece of work. I shall argue that Smith’s theory is more credible than Adams in explaining social changes as it gives a step by step approach of what occurred and it relates to the political system prevalent in many nations today where the free market forces guide the market and government intervention is limited. Adam Smith was born in 1723 in Scotland to a middle class family. He was a follower of Scottish enlightenment and much influenced by the work of Hume. His work is also inclined to that of Karl Marx and the Marxians’ since it is based much on evolution of societies from feudal to capitalism though for him, he used the term commercial societies rather than capitalism. He believed that society developed in four stages: Age of hunters, age of shepherds, age of agriculture and age of commerce (Smith 1978 p. 149). However, he did not explain how these evolved or whether one came after the other but he indicated that each stage is more advanced than the other. Rousseau on the other hand, was born 1712 in Geneva and bases his work much on the ideas of early philosophers such as Plato and Socrates in Greek and Athens. In the Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality among Men, Rousseau gave an account of how society developed from the state of nature to civilization. Savages were in state of nature but with the discovery of iron they started agriculture and as art improved, it gave rise to poets and philosophers who were more civilized. Unlike Smith, he did not specify stages but attributed civilization to development of tools, agriculture and reasoning (Rousseau, Discourse p. 181). There is a difference on the accounts of social change given by the two theorists. For Smith, the society developed out of unintended actions of individuals but for Rousseau, the society development was not an accident. Smith thus indicates that society evolved from that of hunters to that of commercialists. The hunter-gatherers were savages who depended on wild fruits and wild animals (Smith 1978 p. 149). They extracted their source of livelihood from nature without having to till the land or keep animals.
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