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Prudent Entrepreneurship in Theory of Moral Sentiments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2022

Kacey Reeves West*
George Mason University, USA


Adam Smith writes favorably about innovation in Wealth of Nations while writing unfavorably about a figure associated with innovation: the projector. His criticism of projectors prompts many scholars to claim that Smith disapproves of entrepreneurship. But Smith criticizes the projector not because he acts as an entrepreneur but because he fails to meet Smith’s moral standards for entrepreneurship. In Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith conceives of a framework for moral entrepreneurship based on prudence. The framework consists of two principles: first, approach everyday matters with the general “tenor of conduct” that governs your life and trade, and second, approach life-changing matters with prudence and justice. Recognizing that Smith is concerned with the total effect that an entrepreneurial venture has on society beyond its immediate profits opens the door to engage with contemporary research that studies the ethical and moral externalities of entrepreneurship.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Business Ethics

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