For the Times Literary Supplement, Richard Tuck reviews Istvan Hont’s Politics in a Commercial Society: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith.
István Hont (1947–2013) was Reader in the History of Political Thought at the University of Cambridge, where he worked since 1978. He grew up in postwar Hungary, coming to Britain as a student in 1974, and did not return to his home country until after 1989. He published rather little, though a collection of his essays,Jealousy of Trade: International competition and the nation-state in historical perspective(2005), received considerable acclaim and won the American Political Science Association’s J. David Greenstone Book Prize. Hont had a mesmeric effect on his pupils and his colleagues – of whom I was one – through his teaching and conversation. His posthumously publishedPolitics in Commercial Society – the textual version of the six Carlyle Lectures which he gave in Oxford in 2009 – allows people who did not know him personally to get some sense of what was extraordinary about him.
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