Adam Smith is now widely regarded as 'the father of modern economics' and the most influential economist who ever lived. But what he really thought, and what the implications of his ideas are, remain fiercely contested. Was he an eloquent advocate of capitalism and the freedom of the individual? Or a prime mover of 'market fundamentalism' and an apologist for inequality and human selfishness? This exceptional book, by a writer who combines to an unusual degree intellectual training and practical political experience, dispels the myths and caricatures and gives us Smith in the round. It lays out a succinct and highly engaging account of Smith's life and times, explores his work as a whole and traces his influence over the past two centuries. Finally, it shows how a proper understanding of Smith can help us grasp - and address - the problems of modern capitalism. The Smith who emerges from this book is not only the first thinker to place markets at the heart of economics but also a pioneering theorist of moral philosophy, culture and society.