Smith's sentiments (1759) and Wright's passions (1601): the beginnings of sociology

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Treatments of sources of Adam Smith's sociological theory of the self and associated ideas in The Theory of Moral Sentiments typically refer to classical antecedents or the work of his teacher Francis Hutcheson or his contemporary David Hume. During the seventeenth century, however, many books on the passions were published in London that arguably constitute an important but neglected source of Smith's treatment of moral sentiments. These works are largely forgotten today but at the time were widely read. They are not philosophical, partly devotional and predominantly psychological. Although Smith does not refer to these works his argument resembles theirs in many places. The importance of the seventeenth-century books on the passions, apart from their role in the history of psychology, is their bearing on contemporary economic practices. In this paper the connections between Smith and one of these books, Thomas Wright's The Passions of the Minde in Generall, are indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-189
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adam Smith
  • Emotions
  • Looking-glass self
  • Passions
  • Thomas Wright


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