But, as Andrew Skinner reveals in his introduction to this edition, the real sophistication of "The Wealth of Nations" lies less in individual areas of economic analysis than in its overall picture of a vast analytical system--a capitalist economy--in which all the parts can be seen simultaneously interacting with each other. In addition, Smith's view of society was not merely an economic one. "The Wealth of Nations" is far from being an apologia for unregulated business enterprise: Smith was at pains to point out that economic advance can have undesirable social consequences, and that labour which is economically unproductive can be beneficial to society at large.
Adam Smith was born in a small village in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 1723. He entered the University of Glasgow at age fourteen, and later attended Balliol College at Oxford. After lecturing for a period, he held several teaching positions at Glasgow University. His greatest achievement was writing The Wealth of Nations (1776), a five-book series that sought to expose the true causes of prosperity, and installed him as the father of contemporary economic thought. He died in Edinburgh on July 19, 1790.