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Susan E. Gallagher: The Rule of the Rich: Adam Smith's Argument Against Political Power. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. Pp. vii, 141. $28.00.).
This is a short book (105 pages of text) whose content is better indicated by the title than by its sub-title. The theme of this book is "Who should rule?" or more accurately, "Who should rule in aristocratic society?" The book is a survey, on the indicated topic, of the writings of a number of eighteenth-century thinkers: Mandeville, Bolingbroke, Hume, and Smith. This style of work on political theory--looking at a theme across a number of authors--is relatively new and is a potentially very interesting approach.
Gallagher's book has seven chapters. There are two introductory chapters: one called "Introduction" and the other called "Commerce and the Question, Who Should Rule?" Then there are four substantive chapters covering the four principal theorists and a concluding "Postscript." The chronological organization of the substantive chapters is consistent with the contextual approach adopted.
Gallagher approaches her topic from the point of view of the political, economic, and theoretical context of the eighteenth century. According to Gallagher, eighteenth-century Britain was an "aristocratic society" and the essence of such a society is that "the propertied minority ought to be morally superior to the mobile vulgus, the vacillating crowd" (p. 1). The rich were different from the rest of society "because they were destined to …