Book Chapter

Economic Development in the Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas as Cause and Effect



Dow A & Dow S (2015) Economic Development in the Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas as Cause and Effect. In: Ruziev K & Perdikis N (eds.) Development and Financial Reform in Emerging Economies. SCEME Studies in Economic Methodology, 2. London: Pickering & Chatto, pp. 7-22.

The purpose of this paper is to consider why Scottish Enlightenment thought should have generated a particular theory of economic development. We explore the particular context of the Scottish Enlightenment, focusing both on understandings of cultural difference within Scotland, and the particular content of Gaelic culture, as influencing the character of Scottish Enlightenment thought. The specific ideas about economic development in the Scottish Enlightenment period involve further circularity. One of the key arguments was that economic development encourages creativity and ideas, which promote productivity growth. The Enlightenment itself, as a set of ideas, can be seen in part as the outcome of earlier economic development in Scotland, particularly in the form of agricultural improvement. This process of innovation or ‘art', encouraged by the division of labour, applies particularly to the fourth of the stages of economic development: commercialisation (the stages approach being a characteristic feature of Enlightenment thought).

Economic development; Scottish Enlightenment; stages theory

Title of seriesSCEME Studies in Economic Methodology
Number in series2
Publication date31/12/2015
PublisherPickering & Chatto
Publisher URL…erging-economies
Place of publicationLondon

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Professor Sheila Dow

Professor Sheila Dow

Emeritus Professor, Economics