Professor Cairns Craig
’s new book, The Wealth of the Nation: Scotland, Culture and Independence
(Edinburgh University Press, 2018), which has been shortlisted for the Saltire History Book of the Year Award, is a wide-ranging study of the ways in which Scottish culture was defined, exported, transformed, and smuggled through its assimilation in the British State and the British Empire, their rise, their fall, and the more recent fallout. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations
(1776), and the Chicago School and Thatcher’s distortions of its lessons, is a central theme: A considered analyses of the structure of Smith’s thought, its uses and abuses open and close the argument. Craig develops and applies very original critical concepts to Scotland’s cultural history. These include: ‘Xeniteian migration’ (as opposed to diasporic migration: these are institution-builders, recasting the world in Scotland’s image); ‘Nostophobia’ (revulsion toward the culture of one’s own country, especially where it is seen to be ‘past-oriented’); and ‘Theoxenia’ (hospitality to strangers on the basis that they might be Gods in disguise; this notion is close to the idea of a vast horizon of possible Scotlands that was ignited during the 2014 Independence Referendum). Beginning among the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, Craig’s argument casts its net wide, incorporating, for example: the history Scottish Free Masonry; the reception of Walter Scott’s historical novels; the development of so-called ‘race science’; the history of theoretical physics; the intent and impact of pastoral literatures; Associationist aesthetics; film history; modern and contemporary sculpture; contemporary Scottish politics; and a vast array of Scottish literary authors, from Scott to Liz Lochhead. The Wealth of the Nation
is vital reading for those interested in the deeper currents of contemporary debates around Scotland’s cultural politics, and for anyone interested in the foundational relationships between what Craig calls ‘Cultural Wealth’ and a more materialist, or dryly economic notion of historical processes.