ASW Paper Preview: Alexandra Oprea on "Adam Smith on Political Judgment: Revisiting the Political Theory of the Wealth of Nations"

democracy paper preview political judgment

Alexandra Oprea with Christy Lynn for AdamSmithWorks

Alexandra Oprea discusses her paper "Adam Smith on Political Judgment: Revisiting the Political Theory of the Wealth of Nations." 
The world was complex in the 18th century and it's gotten moreso. But Alexandra Oprea and Adam Smith have ideas to help regular people better navigate these challenges. Oprea gives an overview of her ideas in "Adam Smith on Political Judgment: Revisiting the Political Theory of the Wealth of Nations." It was published in the Journal of Politics.

Here's the abstract:
How should the ordinary citizens of commercial societies navigate increasingly complex political landscapes characterized by global markets, specialization, and manipulation by special interests? In this article, I refer to the gap between the demands of political judgment and the capacities of ordinary citizens as the “political judgment problem,” and I argue, drawing on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, that versions of this problem have existed since the early days of commercial society. By reconstructing Smith’s account of collective action by ordinary citizens, we can better understand the importance of political judgment to Smith’s political theory. Attending to it uncovers both classical solutions to the political judgment problem and a series of underappreciated modern answers focused on lowering the cognitive burdens of political judgment such as creating alternatives to partisan cues in public deliberation, reforming ideological shortcuts, and simplifying the multidimensional political space.

You can watch the 15-minute conversation here.

You can read her paper here.

Alexandra Oprea is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science and the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her work explores the politics, philosophy, and economics of education and the place of the young (especially children) within political communities.

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Mentioned in the conversation:
Robert L. Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers
Michelle Schwarze & Edward Frame's "Adam Smith on Education as a Means to Political Judgment" published in Political Research Quarterly.
Kristen Collins' "Observed without Sympathy: Adam Smith on Inequality and Spectatorship" published in American Journal of Political Science.