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The Worldly Philosophers (Business Library)

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The final revision of this classic bestseller, the 7th edition defines the common thread linking the world's greatest economic thinkers and explores the philosophies that motivate them. Hailed by Galbraith as a "brilliant achievement", The Worldly Philosophers with over 2 million copies sold worldwide, not only enables us to see more deeply into our history, but helps us t The final revision of this classic bestseller, the 7th edition defines the common thread linking the world's greatest economic thinkers and explores the philosophies that motivate them. Hailed by Galbraith as a "brilliant achievement", The Worldly Philosophers with over 2 million copies sold worldwide, not only enables us to see more deeply into our history, but helps us to better understand our own times. Heilbroner provides the new theme that connects thinkers as different as Adam Smith andKarl Marx: the desire to understand how a capitalist society works. A new chapter conveys a concern that today's increasingly "scientific" economics may overlook fundamental social and political issues that are central to economics.


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The final revision of this classic bestseller, the 7th edition defines the common thread linking the world's greatest economic thinkers and explores the philosophies that motivate them. Hailed by Galbraith as a "brilliant achievement", The Worldly Philosophers with over 2 million copies sold worldwide, not only enables us to see more deeply into our history, but helps us t The final revision of this classic bestseller, the 7th edition defines the common thread linking the world's greatest economic thinkers and explores the philosophies that motivate them. Hailed by Galbraith as a "brilliant achievement", The Worldly Philosophers with over 2 million copies sold worldwide, not only enables us to see more deeply into our history, but helps us to better understand our own times. Heilbroner provides the new theme that connects thinkers as different as Adam Smith andKarl Marx: the desire to understand how a capitalist society works. A new chapter conveys a concern that today's increasingly "scientific" economics may overlook fundamental social and political issues that are central to economics.

30 review for The Worldly Philosophers (Business Library)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    If you have even a modest interest in economics, particularly in the historic and philosophical aspects of the subject, but don’t know where to begin, this book is what you are looking for! (On the other hand, if you have an interest in the Econ 101 side of the subject, enroll in an Econ 101 course and learn about the “dismal science” from that vantage point: the relations between distribution and consumption; buyers, sellers, and markets; economic growth, inflation, and unemployment; and the mi If you have even a modest interest in economics, particularly in the historic and philosophical aspects of the subject, but don’t know where to begin, this book is what you are looking for! (On the other hand, if you have an interest in the Econ 101 side of the subject, enroll in an Econ 101 course and learn about the “dismal science” from that vantage point: the relations between distribution and consumption; buyers, sellers, and markets; economic growth, inflation, and unemployment; and the microeconomic/macroeconomic and monetary/fiscal policy distinctions.) The book relates in an engaging and entertaining way the thinking of the important economists and economic schools: Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, the Utopian Socialists, Marx, the Victorians, Veblen, Keynes, and Schumpeter. Each chapter includes a biographical essay on the economist(s) covered, how their thinking grew out of, or was a reaction to, prior economic theory, and a nice overview of the contributions they made. Heilbroner actually wrote the book as a free lance writer in the early 1950s, while he was in graduate school (studying economics, of course). Since its 1953 publication, it has never been out of print; has gone through seven editions; and been read by countless undergraduate and graduate students taking courses in the history and philosophy of economics – maybe even a few taking Econ 101 courses!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This one fits into a swag of books that have been written over the years, sort of grand introductions to the key players in philosophy (or in this case economics). Now, there are dangers with this stuff. One of them is getting the balance right in how much you plan to say about the life of the ‘philosopher’ and how much space that then leaves you to expound on their economic (or philosophical) theories. For an example of someone who gets that balance completely wrong check out the ‘in 90 minutes This one fits into a swag of books that have been written over the years, sort of grand introductions to the key players in philosophy (or in this case economics). Now, there are dangers with this stuff. One of them is getting the balance right in how much you plan to say about the life of the ‘philosopher’ and how much space that then leaves you to expound on their economic (or philosophical) theories. For an example of someone who gets that balance completely wrong check out the ‘in 90 minutes’ books by Paul Strathern. Utter shite. Not the least of their problems being the biography is so extensive the books gloss over the philosophy, which surely most people would be reading the damn books for in the first place. This book is a bit more like Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I think the author would have been rather pleased with that comparison – but all the same I was hoping for something more like Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy. All the same, this book gives a pretty good introduction to the main players in the history of economic thought. I particularly enjoyed the section on Ricardo and Malthus. This helped me to understand in a different way Stiglitz’s constant reference to ‘rent seekers’ in his latest book and the dangers they pose to economic development. Ricardo saw rent as the theft of what would otherwise be productive profit from both workers and capitalists. Marx is treated at length here and, unlike in so many other books on ‘economics’, his views of the labour theory of value are rehearsed in a way that Marx might even recognise. The only problem I had with this section was that the author – after explaining surplus value as that portion of the wages of labour that is produced by labour after it has produced enough to reproduce itself and is then expropriated by the capitalist, we are told that since people no longer work 10 or 12 hour days the labour theory of value no longer applies. It is the oddest statement in the book and one that made me wonder if the author had been paying attention to his own explanation of the theory only a page or so beforehand. Later he says that the labour theory of value had been completely disproven – I guess it would have been nice to have had this disproof presented in the pages of the book, rather than asserted. I’m really going to have to read more about Keynes – an utterly fascinating man and nearly absurdly intelligent. In fact, one of the things that is clear is that many of these ‘worldly philosophers’ (that is, economists) were mind-blowingly intelligent people. Keynes was that and then some. I was particularly impressed that he realised that the Treaty of Versailles would cause the problems it ought to have been concerned to avoid – vengeance against Germany meant little more than forcing Germany to be an economic menace and eventually to build resentment to a point where war was inevitable. I’d never heard of Joseph Schumpeter before reading this – I’m probably unlikely to read very much more about him. The last version of this book seems to have been written in 1992 – you might think there would be more said about neo-liberalism or rather radical free market economics. There is the briefest mention of Milton the Monster – no more than a dig at the fact that his radical free market views weren’t exactly what he won his Nobel Prize for – but given this has become the new orthodoxy you might expect more space dedicated to this theme here. That said, I would assume that the Hayek brigade are unlikely to view this book too favourably – but then, they don’t really do history or read anything likely to disconfirm their beliefs, so there is little danger of them reading this, I would suspect. This is a worthwhile overview and, although perhaps a little too much on the side of biography, there is still enough theory to make the journey a profitable one. It is clearly written and written in a style that makes this most dry of subjects both interesting and engaging. A classic and for good reasons.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    As Seen in the Sub-Blurbs This is step two in a project to acquire a modest foundation in political and economic philosophy before some more focused reading in both areas. The first step was Thelma Lavine’s “From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest”: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... Both books summarise the lives and philosophy of key philosophers in language that is easy to understand. While I intend to read some other generalist philosophy books as well, I recommend both books for re As Seen in the Sub-Blurbs This is step two in a project to acquire a modest foundation in political and economic philosophy before some more focused reading in both areas. The first step was Thelma Lavine’s “From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest”: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... Both books summarise the lives and philosophy of key philosophers in language that is easy to understand. While I intend to read some other generalist philosophy books as well, I recommend both books for readers who just want an overview or a foundation for further reading similar to what I’m undertaking. "A World Full of Lobsters" Thomas Carlyle once described economics as a “dismal science”. It was dismal, because it found “the secret of the universe in supply and demand” and reduced the duty of government to “letting man alone” (i.e., “laissez-faire” capitalism). Heilbroner’s publishers requested him to name his project and book “The Great Economists”. Fearful that this might sound to the general reader like “The Most Dismal Scientists”, he approached the project from a more philosophical point of view, so as to help understand alternative visions for the economy within society rather than the internal operation of the economy at a mechanical or purely political level. You could argue that words like “worldly” and “philosopher” might be of little appeal to the average student of the dismal science. However, the name of the book reveals a literary and pedagogical approach that is designed to maximize interest in the subject matter. Indeed, Heilbroner managed to escape the dismal preconceptions about his subject matter so much so that a student once asked a bookseller if they had an economics book called “A World Full of Lobsters”. Dialectical Narration Heilbroner succeeds in his task by writing lucidly. He doesn’t just describe, he creates a narrative with drive and excitement. His view of economic history is directional, even if it does not necessarily embrace the inevitable progress envisaged by the Enlightenment philosophers and scientists. Secondly, he unfolds the narrative through the use of a dialectical opposition between the successive economists in the chain. While Marx might have advocated dialectical materialism, Heilbroner is a dialectical story-teller. There is conflict, then resolution, then a new conflict occurs, followed by a new resolution. A Metaphor for the Study of Capitalism In the rest of this review, I want to summarise the main concepts and explain what I got out of the book. I have never formally studied economics for any extended period of time. Although I originally wanted to be a chemical engineer, I am terrified by any book that contains mathematical formulae. While I used to understand them intuitively, now they seem like some form of dark arts. It is my solemn duty to shelter you from these dark arts and the misery that could befall you if you come across them. Therefore, I have decided to use a metaphor in my explanation of Capitalism, and the metaphor will be that of “Caterpillarism”, a term which is not yet in Wikipaedia. Please bear with me and pay attention. The Players Heilbroner focuses largely on the following economists: Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Mill, Marx, Edgeworth (no, I hadn’t either), Von Thunen (didn’t he make the rockets in “Gravity’s Rainbow”?), Walras (wasn’t the Walras Paul?), Bastiat (I thought he was an 80’s graffiti artist), Henry George, Hobson, Marshall (holler for an economist), Thorstein Veblen, Keynes (the guy they named Keynesianism after), Schumpeter (I’m not sure if it rhymes with trumpeter, I don’t know anybody who’s ever pronounced it), and Adolphe Lowe. Now if I was wedded to the list technique, I would probably just end my review, and you would conclude that I must know what I’m talking about, look at my star rating and decide that you will (will never ever) read this book because I did. But I am not the sort of Good Reader who is content with lists. In fact, by and large, I despise them. I think there are 19 dismalists in that list, which is far too many. So I’m going to put them on two teams, one team consisting only of Karl Marx, and the other captained by Adam Smith, but including everybody else. I’m not saying that Smith was better than the rest, just that he was the first, plus he broke the back of economics and the others have really just refined it or improved it by degree. Why Caterpillarism? So now these two teams have to explain Caterpillarism. Why Caterpillarism? Well, I’ll tell you. Caterpillarism really only started [ages ago/ in the 1760’s/ in 1848/ before the war (but which war?)/ last century/ in Year 8 at High School] and it is still changing. Just when somebody thinks they can explain it, it undergoes some crisis or breakdown that changes the rules so much that it doesn't even seem to be the same game anymore. So the metaphor I want to use is of two teams of dismal scientists examining a life form which they know only to be a Caterpillar. You could imagine that this life form might live and die as a Caterpillar, but gradually we learn that Caterpillars can transmorph into a Butterfly or a Moth. Team Smith In reality, I made Smith a captain, because he’s the one who first believed that the Caterpillar was a juvenile Butterfly. In his eyes, it’s a beautiful thing, it’s capable of progress, change, growth and improvement, it works, and it doesn't need anybody from outside to make it work or tweak it. In fact, it works best when nobody tweaks it at all. It’s self-regulating. The invisible hand of the market is working away behind the scenes, yes, invisibly, just like God is supposed to. Despite the fact that it is made up of numerous opposing forces, the Caterpillar finds an equilibrium on its own. The Caterpillar needs opposing forces, just like humans need opposing thumbs. We couldn’t work, if we didn't have them. Even in times of crisis, the Caterpillar reaches an outcome that was meant to be. OK, some people might suffer, but they were intended to suffer, for the good of the overall system. Shit happens in this system, but that’s like saying that football players occasionally do a hamstring. You play the game, you assume the risk of injury. Team Marx No prizes for guessing that Marx believed the Caterpillar would turn into a Moth. Apart from the competition between merchants, the opposing forces represented class interests, the Caterpillarist and the Working Class. The interests of the two classes are diametrically opposed. One class does not win, unless another loses. It’s a sport, and nobody has come along to see a scoreless draw. Marx didn’t violently disagree with Smith’s understanding of the mechanics of the Caterpillar. He primarily disagreed with what would happen in the future. He believed that Caterpillarism was headed inevitably toward disequilibrium, and one day the Working Class would revolt and overturn Caterpillarism in favour of Communism. Not only did he believe a Revolution would happen, he believed that it was dictated by the concept of Dialectical Materialism. It was inevitable, and the duty of Communists around the world was to facilitate the Revolution. The Composition of the Ball Now that we have two Teams, we need to define what sport they are playing. What is in contention? All good sports require a ball (or something a bit like a ball). [Sorry, I refuse to accept that anything that involves peddling or paddling is a sport.] As it turns out, the dispute is about the ball. Not what you do with the ball, but the composition of the ball. The ball is the product of Caterpillarism, the goods that are made, bought and sold. Every time a ball is made and sold, a goal is scored. Who gets the credit for scoring the goal? And in what proportion? What is the relative value of a “goal assist”? The measure of the value of the ball is its price. How much is it sold for? How was the price determined and who ultimately gets a share of the price? Team Smith believes that the price includes the cost of land, materials, and labor (the effort of the Workers who actually make the ball and distribute it around the park), plus a margin for the Caterpillarist’s profit. Team Smith believes that the Caterpillarist is entitled to negotiate and pin down its costs of input, and therefore it is solely entitled to whatever profit it can generate by playing the game or scoring a goal. The fact that these other contributions were required does not entitle the contributors to a profit share. The profit is the reward for, or return on, the use of the Caterpillarist’s capital. Team Marx believes that the profit is not strictly speaking the product of the Caterpillarist’s capital, it’s the product of the Workers’ labor (the “labor theory of value”). To the extent that the Caterpillarist has any capital, it reflects the profit previously made from other Workers’ labor. Thus, in Team Marx’ eyes, the Caterpillarist is nothing without labor. Caterpillarists should not be entitled to expropriate the profit from the Workers’ labor. The purpose, then, of a Revolution is to end the disequilibrium and terminate the misappropriation of the fruit of the Workers’ labor. If you want to read more about why this was so important to Marx philosophically, see my review of Marx' "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts": http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... Half Time Score In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the Caterpillarists might have thought they were winning, but the world got pretty close to Revolution everywhere, not just in Russia. Ironically, what avoided World Revolution was a rule change that allowed the Referee to influence the play. Rather than allow the Caterpillarists to thrash the Workers by a margin that would depress everyone, the Referee in the form of Social Democratic Governments legislated to achieve a level playing field. Minimum wages were set. Working conditions were protected by law. Workers suffered less misery. They got a little more comfortable and lost their revolutionary fervor. They still didn’t get a share of the profits. They just got paid a better wage, usually whether or not the Caterpillarist generated a profit. So the risk-taking Caterpillarist could go down the gurgler, while the Workers still got paid (although they might lose their jobs). The Second Half We’re still playing the second half of the game, and there is no end in sight. Team Smith and the Caterpillarists still believe that some form of equilibrium has been and will be achieved, albeit with the intervention of the Referee against the wishes of the laissez-faire Caterpillarists. Even if a Revolution has been avoided, the outcome is not the self-regulating equilibrium the Caterpillarists were seeking. Team Marx appears to have been irreparably damaged by the failure of attempts to do without Caterpillarists in Communist economies and the complacency of the Workers who are doing alright. These rule changes have forced a reconsideration of the strategies of each Team. Some on Team Smith (e.g., Schumpeter) believed that Caterpillarism could not survive in such an adversary manner and that profits would eventually erode to such a level that Caterpillarists would effectively receive only a salary for managing their capital. Thus, the differential between capital and labor would diminish and potentially manifest itself in a distinction only between Workers and Management. Ultimately, even this difference would be reflected primarily in the relative level of remuneration. Late in the second half, the players were confronted by new rule changes. After a period of relative post-Communist stability, Caterpillarism was rocked by Inflation, Recession, Depression, and the Global Financial Crisis. Once again, the Referee intervened to make sure the game continued. The Referee supported the Caterpillarists with cash and credit, so that they in turn could pay wages and salaries to the Workers and Management. Nobody quite knows at what cost this support will come. The important thing is that the Referee mitigated the misery of the Workers and Management. [image error] State Caterpillarism At the same time that some on Team Smith have suggested that profits might diminish over the course of Caterpillarism, China has apparently mastered the art of profit generation, only not in the name of Caterpillarism, but in the name of Communism. The surplus value created by its Workers is being aggregated by the State or State-owned Enterprises. Not only is it funding domestic growth, it’s also propping up first world economies and their governments’ deficits. Thus, China, in a reversal of the dynamic of Colonialism, is actually capitalizing on investment opportunities in the West to create greater domestic wealth, while making itself an indispensable source of economic stability in the West. What emerges from this is a principle that profit itself is not intrinsically bad, at least if it is generated in the name of the State, which is presumably representative of the Workers’ interests. In other words, public profit good, private profit bad. Team Work It seems to me that these disputes about profits are effectively arguments about the relative entitlement to profit as between labor and capital. It’s amazing that an issue that, technically, is within the realm of Cost Accounting has become a philosophical and political issue that has dominated economics and government for almost 260 years. For the Marx Team, at least, its importance derives from the fact that it dictates the relationship of Workers with the product of their labor (alienation), as well as the quality of their life (subjugation to Caterpillarists). However, you have to wonder why the alienation should be any different in the case of State Caterpillarism. Does it matter who appropriates the profit? Does it matter who subjugates the Worker? As long as the State purports to represent the whole of society, it’s OK? Somehow, I can’t see Workers making such a fine philosophical distinction. What seems to be missing is a greater role for Worker Profit Sharing, whereby the Workers share in the surplus value that they have created within the framework of a joint venture. Philosophically, this recognises that it is their labor that generated a proportionate part of the profit, while giving them greater financial security. Retirement Incomes There is another justification for profit that has become more important as the average lifetime of the public has increased. Assuming that Workers still retire from active, full-time work, it will be necessary for them to fund some, if not all, of their retirement income for the rest of their lives. Thus, remuneration should not just be about funding a subsistence lifestyle while you are working. It must also fund post-retirement incomes. If the Worker is not to bear some or all of the burden of their incomes, the burden would fall back on pensions funded by the State. Ultimately, someone (Workers or State) would still have to generate sufficient funds to fund these pensions. Thus, the question seems to be not whether profits need to be generated, but who is entitled to them. The Vision Thing Heilbroner laments the fact that these types of economists and philosophers seem to have exited the field of economics in favour of dismal mathematical and mechanical economists. Nobody is trying to extend the dialectical narrative into the future. Nobody is telling the story anymore. It’s just happening around us, and we’re reacting. We’re walking backwards into the future, with little, if any, hope of affecting the outcome. In a way, the game hasn't finished yet, but nobody is trying to predict the outcome, Butterfly or Moth. And if you don't try to predict the outcome, how can you hope to influence it? Perhaps, this passive state of affairs is a product of Social Democratic governments that intervene in Caterpillarism. Perhaps, we won’t end up with a Butterfly or a Moth, but some hybrid that we haven’t conceived of and won’t be able to define until it is upon us. Perhaps, then, Caterpillarism will continue to shape us, instead of us shaping it. If so, who knows whether we will turn into Butterflies or Moths?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    More or less the story of British Empiricism versus mainland European Idealism, but without the empiricism, told in a handful of lives the 'worldly philosophers' of the title, or economists as they are often known, but Heilbroner did not want to use as off putting a term as economists, having an eye on potential sales. The book feels quite smug now rereading it, the Cheshire cat has got the cream and leaves a self-satisfied smile on almost every page. My sense is that it is overall less than the More or less the story of British Empiricism versus mainland European Idealism, but without the empiricism, told in a handful of lives the 'worldly philosophers' of the title, or economists as they are often known, but Heilbroner did not want to use as off putting a term as economists, having an eye on potential sales. The book feels quite smug now rereading it, the Cheshire cat has got the cream and leaves a self-satisfied smile on almost every page. My sense is that it is overall less than the sum of its parts and deliberately sets out to be self sufficient and discourage any reading of the 'philosophers' themselves. This makes it ideal for the reader who fancies a non-technical, breezy account of some well known names. The introduction and first chapter give an overview of the history of the universe down to the eighteenth century from an economic view point. I think it obscures matters and makes it sound more forbidding and complex than it is, or was. there after coming chapters on individuals or sets of persons as follows plus a conclusion. Adam Smith there is an overview of his life focusing on the quirky (kidnapped briefly by gypsies, lived at home with his mum all his life, only wrote book because of £500 annual pension he received, etc...) then a discussion of how incredibly hard he is to read, impressing the reader that we had best leave the actual reading of Smith to the Priestly caste which serves him still. Then an overview of his ideas a la Heilbroner, from which we see Smith as the Newton of economic thinking - his vision seems distinctly mechanical, except the constituent parts are ignorant of each other and of how they interact the vision of Adam smith is a testimony to the eighteenth-century belief in the inevitable triumph of rationality and order over arbitrariness and chaos (p.70) To my mind Smith begins to taste like William Palley, the invisible hand another sign, like the watch on the footpath, of the presence of God and a divine plan (view spoiler)[ so far a fairly tawdry looking plan, perhaps proof positive of a demiurge rather than of a wise supreme being (hide spoiler)] . Malthus & Riccardo a tragic couplet for Heilbroner, as with Smith there is a section on their quirkiness and general context (Riccardo had a high pitched voice and was good at charades while Malthus had a cleft palate and couldn't pronounce the letter 'l') before a discussion of their thought. Both seen as pessimistic in relation to Smith - his political economy was a self regulating machine, while Heilbroner has it that Malthus and Riccardo had discovered the tragedy of continual growth. Utopian SocialistsRobert Owen, Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and John Stuart Mill, a bit of an odd mix and I feel only in the book to transition the reader in time from Riccardo to Marx. Mill apparently a socialist, which is a bit of a surprise as I though in Britain he's generally considered a fairly classical Liberal, but then I recalled that Heilbroner was from the USA. Simon and Fourier are presented as crazy, but they spoke it appears to a wider audience than Smith, which raises the question of the criteria for inclusion in the book, is Heilbroner interested in the development of economic thinking or of the impact of economic thinking or does he have no particular criteria (view spoiler)[ I incline to the last idea (hide spoiler)] . Karl Marx the same procedure as every year, the quirky life (boils, bad handwriting, couldn't manage his own finances without bail outs from Engels) a presentation of ideas principally that Marx was wrong but important, I had the distinct impression that I understood less at the bottom of some pages than I had at the top. I had thought that the economic focus meant that some, maybe many of these thinkers were utterly shredded by Heilbroner, the economy was for Marx as for Smith a part of their overall vision, just looking at that fragment I felt misrepresented what they were about. The Victorian world a ragbag of Alfred Marshall, Francis Edgeworth, Frederic Bastiat, Henry George and John Hobson, here I think purely to transition in forty pages from Marx to Veblen. Hobson I thought interesting - arguing that certain countries were forced into Imperialism in order to find new markets for the excess of industrial goods that could not be consumed domestically - an interesting idea but plainly wrong since the colonies were mostly too poor - other wealthy countries were always far more significant as trading partners, but this is true for all of these economic thinkers, they have some interesting ideas but their actual empirical knowledge when you scratch the surface seems mostly to be limited or misleading, while their first hand experience of the economy was generally even more limited - look at Adam Smith there was literally an invisible hand in his life who put dinner on the table for him and picked his dirty underwear up off the floor - his mum. Thorstein Veblen the greatest, but not the easiest to read and frequently impossible to quote. Reading this chapter led me to read The Theory of the Leisure Class, and that made this book worthwhile. John Maynard Keynes quirky life (homosexual relationships, married a ballerina, liked champagne). Keynes is I felt a bit of a problem for Heilbroner, on the one hand Keynes explained a way out of the Great Depression, Keynesian appeared to work, but Heilbroner doesn't seem to have liked that, I had the suspicion that Heilbroner was more than a bit uncomfortable with Keynes the man, particularly as he was the only only of any of these economists to have had any kind of success at running a business or making money. Joseph Schumpeter Curious, Heilbroner plainly likes Schumpeter a lot, but there doesn't seem in his account to be an obvious reason why. The Schumpeter chapter led me to conclude that the sub-Suetonius life and times approach of Heilbroner opened up the potential for alternative biographical readings of these economists, therefore Schumpeter likes entrepreneuers because they are in his opinion an aristocracy of talent - which was how he perceived himself, Marx believed in revolution because he was born and brought up in Prussia during a very oppressive period of its history, the economics is just a by-product. Veblen is the anthropologist of the economy because he was the naturalised alien lost between the American shores. It strikes me that what most of these thinkers have in common is not economics, but sociology. A drive to explain what the human world is and how it functions, all of these writers I believe wrote, with the possible exception of Adam Smith, for political reasons broadly speaking, to either push for certain policies or wider cultural changes. Looking at them purely from the perspective of economic thinking is like looking at half and elephant and concluding that it must have walked upright on two legs and probably didn't need a head. Each thinker is a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that remarkably and apparently to Heilbroner's surprise fit together to form a harmonious picture, suggestive of a perfect university syllabus. Heilbroner admires the Scandinavian economies finding they have produced far better in his opinion societies than the USA yet he is more critical of the thinking and ideals which underpinned the Scandinavian economies. It is noticeable that these people are almost all from the English-speaking world and when he seeks for examples he reaches for those from Anglo-Saxon Capitalism giving the impression of a restricted view of a complicated picture. Well it is what it is, a breazy life and times approach. No mathematics required.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Prerna

    I have long been intimidated by the idea of studying economics, even though I hold a deep fascination for it. In an effort to push myself to read more about some concepts that I have considered as complex for an inexcusably long time now, I picked up this book. Layman that I am, Heilbroner's approach seemed well suited to my interests. There is a dry wit in each of this book's chapters. Maybe it's because these economists were eccentric in their own ways or maybe it's because Heilbroner is so ard I have long been intimidated by the idea of studying economics, even though I hold a deep fascination for it. In an effort to push myself to read more about some concepts that I have considered as complex for an inexcusably long time now, I picked up this book. Layman that I am, Heilbroner's approach seemed well suited to my interests. There is a dry wit in each of this book's chapters. Maybe it's because these economists were eccentric in their own ways or maybe it's because Heilbroner is so ardent in his admiration of many of them that he finds their quirks humorous. Either way, I found myself smiling at many of his descriptions. Heilbroner interestingly traces out the development of profit and its mechanisms, both within societies and in economic theories. He also examines how accurately each of these theories described the actual material conditions of the world they were developed in, although he does seem partial in his analysis. My favourite chapter was undoubtedly the one on Keynes, since Keynesian economics was greatly influential to the development of global economic relations post the new deal and Heilbroner lays out the theory in simple terms while also providing insight into Keynes' unconventional personal life. Even though Heilbroner identified as a socialist, he concludes this book by stating that 'worldly philosophy' should focus on developing capitalisms that are socially and economically successful. I do wish that book focused more on the theory aspect. I, for one, could've done without the detailed physical descriptions of each of these economists. But it definitely was an enjoyable and informative read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    Nutshell: cold warrior burps up whirlwind dilettante's tour of the chrematistical arts. Overall presents an affective dialectic, positioning various theorists of political economy in relationship to each other on the basis of how they feel about the future. Smith is pragmatically optimistic; Malthus and Ricardo are independently despairing; Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon are presented as insanely optimistic; and so on. This presentation sweeps up the whole: “behind this diversity was a common thread, Nutshell: cold warrior burps up whirlwind dilettante's tour of the chrematistical arts. Overall presents an affective dialectic, positioning various theorists of political economy in relationship to each other on the basis of how they feel about the future. Smith is pragmatically optimistic; Malthus and Ricardo are independently despairing; Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon are presented as insanely optimistic; and so on. This presentation sweeps up the whole: “behind this diversity was a common thread, a thread of continuity which we should now stop to recognize. It was this: If one could divine the nature of the economic forces in the world, one could foretell the future“ (291). Though this approach to economics as a form of prophetics is generalized in this section, he nonetheless shows his philistine US roots by referring blithely to such things as “Marxian consecration of infallibility” (181) and other slurs suggesting religiosity--as though other economists thought that they were wrong, or that the US was not fanatically devoted to its variant of capitalism during the Palmer Raids. Marx is held responsible for the alleged “pattern of intolerance” of communism in general (139), such as “internal witch-hunts for ‘deviationists’ and ‘counterrevolutionaries’” (138), through his ”infuriating and absolute inability to entertain dissenting opinions, that autocratic air, and that antipathy for democracy which communism has inherited” (139-40). Incidentally, this hasty conclusion arises out of an (under-)analysis of Marx's dispute with Proudhon, which was carried out through the writing of contending pamphlets--telling, then, that this author regards strident disputation in writing to be "antipathy for democracy"--I suppose this reveals my own antipathy for democracy by disagreeing with author in writing. Such tyranny! We see the blinkered US-orientation in how “the relationship of American corporations to their foreign hosts [sic] is not altogether the same as the typical imperialist relationship of the nineteenth century” (184) and “thus, we [sic] never became a formidable imperialist power” (185). Though he mentions the 1954 Guatemala operation and several other US crimes, the full measure of rightwing horror from the early cold war is much nastier than this author will acknowledge, which, by my reckoning for the years 1946 until 1967 (the year in which this edition of the text was published), the US committed crimes under international law in Thailand, France, Italy, Philippines, Colombia, Peru, Syria, Albania, Romania, Poland, Bolivia, DPRK, Egypt, Cuba, Guyana, Iran, Guatemala, Argentina, Vietnam, Hungary, Haiti, Japan, Iraq, Laos, Sudan, Lebanon, Nepal, Ecuador, South Korea, Turkey, Congo, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Honduras, Chile, Indonesia, and Greece. None of that, surely, stamps the imprimatur of a capitalist consecration of infallibility, nor does it evidence an absolute inability to entertain dissenting opinions. Surely not, no! “We” rather have the “immeasurably more difficult and subtle task of persuading the world’s dispossessed that we are just as concerned with their lot, just as eager to aid reform as the Russians--although our means and slogans are less dramatic and our promises less tinged with paradise than theirs” (298). Easy to persuade all of those corpses, no? Why not go recruit some Nazi war criminals to help with all that? (cf. Blowback America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War.) We know this is a hit piece in which the cold warrior lines up all of classical political economy against Herr Marx when--after frivolously suggesting that marxism acts religiously, even though all economics attempts to predict the future--he dicks up the summation of marxist theory: “For profits do tend to fall in an enterprise economy. The insight was not original with Marx, nor do profits fall for the reasons he gave--we can dispense with the idea of exploitation contained in the theory of surplus value” (148). This is of course a misstatement of the thesis that the rate of profit tends to fall; the marxian formulation of that thesis is definitional, rooted in other terms of art, and not easily conflated with the cursory statements by other political economists on how profits go down as a matter of diminishing returns or because other capitals rush in to compete down the price. Otherwise, safe to say that this text is in some ways the gold standard for non-fiction writing: lively in style, manifestly popularizing many thousands of economics pages into a slim, readable volume, witty, committed. Despite my critique, supra, the presentation of Marx is not completely dishonest, even though it holds marxism static with Marx himself, whereas bourgeois economics is presented as a continuing development and therefore continuously relevant and improving, whereas marxism is simply ossified stalinism--it’s nasty, and it means that he is not really serious, somewhat subliterate perhaps as to leftwing ideas. Presentation of the “utopian socialists” is much too glib; presentation of Smith much too glowing; presentation of Keynes very much an adoration. Often gossipy and trivial, focusing on personal details (Veblen is an interesting cat--but this is economics?). Accordingly, not a substitute for a proper history of economic theory.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sanjay Gautam

    Absolutely brilliant!

  8. 5 out of 5

    May 舞

    "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - Maynard Keynes With this in mind, it is not only important, but crucial for all of us to understand how that complex entity we call the economy works. Dr. Heilbroner sets himself a difficult task; to discuss the economists whose vision has largely shaped our society and whose contributions are still relevant to the contemporary world. There are many fa "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - Maynard Keynes With this in mind, it is not only important, but crucial for all of us to understand how that complex entity we call the economy works. Dr. Heilbroner sets himself a difficult task; to discuss the economists whose vision has largely shaped our society and whose contributions are still relevant to the contemporary world. There are many familiar names on the list: Adam Smith, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, Maynard Keynes, John Stuart Mill, and Parson Malthus. But others were new (although they shouldn't be): David Ricardo, Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, Frederic Bastiat, Henry George, John A. Hobson, Alfred Marshall, Thorstein Veblen, and Joseph Schumpeter. In addition to explaining each economist's theory or criticism, Heilbroner sketches his personality, as well as his private and academic life, and while that was dull and irrelevant at times, at others it was greatly entertaining and shed some light on the conclusion said economist arrived at. It is not a very technical book, and a passing knowledge of how Capitalism works will suffice (I recommend Yanis Varoufakis's Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism which will be an excellent introduction). Another warning is that this book is not concise nor to the point. A statement which can be summed up in one sentence encompasses ten or more. However, for all its shortcomings, I can confidently say that I gained a lot by reading The Worldly Philosophers. My favourite chapters were the ones on Marx and Thorstein Veblen. Moreover, there were countless observations and criticisms that I found fascinating and extremely pertinent to modern life. “The distribution of wealth depends on the laws and customs of society. The rules by which it is determined are what the opinions and feelings of the ruling portion of the community make them, and are very different in different ages and countries, and might be still more different, if mankind so chose....” - J.S. Mill The final chapter on Economics as Science? (the answer is no) was extremely thought-provoking as well. Overall, it's a good introduction to the work of each of the aforementioned economists.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Ubhaykar

    In this excellent summary of the evolution of economic thought over the last two centuries, Professor Robert Heilbroner delves into not just the philosophies, but also the lives and the backgrounds of various economic thinkers and tries to find common ground between how they experienced their lives and what they wrote in their books. He starts the book off with one essential question: what makes the modern economy so radically different from medieval and ancient economies so as to necessitate th In this excellent summary of the evolution of economic thought over the last two centuries, Professor Robert Heilbroner delves into not just the philosophies, but also the lives and the backgrounds of various economic thinkers and tries to find common ground between how they experienced their lives and what they wrote in their books. He starts the book off with one essential question: what makes the modern economy so radically different from medieval and ancient economies so as to necessitate the invention of an entirely new branch of knowledge, namely ‘economics’, or a study of the ‘political economy’? To explain this, Heilbroner postulates two means throughout history by which those in power ensured that everyone performed the duties according to their social station: command and tradition. In traditional caste-bound societies like India, social function is passed on through lineage while in the time of the ancient Egyptians, it was through the divine pharaoh’s command that the massive Pyramids were built. In any case, it was a combination of these two manners of transfer of authority that provided everyone with their ‘roles’ in society. The modern economy, not unlike the Biblical moment of creation, began with Adam. In this case, with Adam Smith, an eccentric Scottish professor known as the father of modern economics. Modern economics or ‘political economy’, he said was radically different from the historical methods of organizing society because of the introduction of a new motivation: self-interest or the profit motive. For the first time, society revolved around the actions of ‘free-thinking agents’ who pursued their own ‘self-interest’, a thought previously heretical to the Catholic medieval elite for whom covetousness was a sin. The rational man was thus born. Rational, in this context, meant that a man would rather have more of a product than less of it. Thus, the age of accumulation began. Increasingly, a certain section of the society began to be accorded more power: namely the ‘capital’ists, or those who were of the firm and simple belief that ‘capital’ accumulated by amassing profits ought to be reinvested to generate more profits. Smith’s vision of the economic world was benign, a self-regulating market model in which a combination of atomistic competition and self-interest ensured that the means of production were organized efficiently. Simply put, prices and quantities produced were governed efficiently by demand and competition. For example, if high demand drives up prices higher than their cost of production, competition will ensure that a flood of new players and new products will bring prices down to their original levels of profitability. This vision is rudely disrupted by the ‘gloomy presentiments’ of Robert Malthus and David Ricardo who present two disturbing thoughts: that population will overtake food production and that ‘the interests of the landowners are always opposed to that of every other class’ respectively. Ricardo, a great analytical thinker, in addition is also credited with flagging off the abstraction of economics. Ricardian vice now denotes the dangers of abstraction, a point at which an abstract model ceases to replicate reality around it and yields counterproductive results. The rest of the book is an engaging, humorous, and informative account of how Smith’s comfortable narrative was subverted by succeeding generations of eccentric, intelligent and often radical economists and by the evolving global economic landscape. As capitalism sunk deeper into the increasingly interconnected and interdependent global economy, fresh theories were necessary to explain the workings of this complex monster that often spiralled out of control. Heilbroner analyzes the lives, times and philosophies of Karl Marx, Robert Owen, John Hobson, Thornstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter, thus tracing the evolution of economic thought over the last two centuries through these important thinkers. In particular, the chapters on Karl Marx and Thornstein Veblen are especially well-written. He explores their eccentric lifestyles and unconventional thoughts and the relation between the two in enthralling prose. Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class and Marx’s Das Capital, both of which are great critiques of the capitalistic model, are analyzed in detail and the prescient nature of their observations given due importance. Hobson’s envisaging of the transformation of capitalism into ‘imperialism’ wherein industrialized nations use colonies as ‘dumping grounds’ for their products - India being the prime example in the case of British textile products - is explored in a chapter titled ‘The Victorian World and the Underworld of Economics’. Heilbroner should get the George Orwell Award for Clarity in English. He explains the often complicated and dull economic concepts in wonderfully precise prose, provides the right historical context and makes this an entertaining read. He ends the book with a recent chapter titled ‘The End of Worldly Philosophy?’ in which he discusses the challenges facing modern economics, namely the increasing mathematization and politicization of the discipline which is leading it away from its original ambition of explicating the organization of the means of production and distribution into a deceptive cocoon of specialized jargon.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    My estimation of economic science lies somewhere between where I rate astrology and phlogiston, but I'm giving this a chance to convince me otherwise... Update: A little breezy, but so far it is interesting to read that Adam Smith was a lot brighter than his latter day followers. He recognized that the division of labor did not create economic growth by any sort of magic, but by the systematic exploitation of available resources including labor. He thought that eventually wages would either rise My estimation of economic science lies somewhere between where I rate astrology and phlogiston, but I'm giving this a chance to convince me otherwise... Update: A little breezy, but so far it is interesting to read that Adam Smith was a lot brighter than his latter day followers. He recognized that the division of labor did not create economic growth by any sort of magic, but by the systematic exploitation of available resources including labor. He thought that eventually wages would either rise so high that profit was impossible or wages would fall with a rising population of workers competing their way to the bottom. He even predicted that eventually capitalism would expand to exploit every available resource and then reach an equilibrium where wages are as low as possible and profits are impossible because there are no inefficiencies left, the market is as perfect as it can be. No more growth after that. He thought this would take about 200 years, so I guess TIME'S UP! His treatment of Mill is good, never someone I would have otherwise considered a great political philosopher, but I changed my mind. Mill is the intellectual father of the modern welfare state compromise, because he admits the power of politics to control distribution through tax policy. The treatment of Marx is however too breezy. He does a good job with the surplus value argument against capitalism--Marx's one trump card it seems to me, and still one that has extraordinary power, but only if you overlook Marx's labor theory of value and its weaknesses. Labor power was to Marx a fact of nature to be integrated in his faulty edifice of Hegelian inspired metaphysics-rubbish. But labor power makes no sense in economics unless we say what the labor produces and whether or not it has any social value. I once met a woman who made Goblin head flower vases for a living. They're all different, she said, I never make two alike. While that may be a fascinating fact about the amount of labor power and thought and creativity she put into these Goblin heads, I did not feel inclined to value them for that reason. Probably the nicest chapter is about Thorstein Veblen. His second book about the rise of the Engineers is even more interesting than his Theory of the Leisure Class. The chapter on Keynes is more focused on his personality, but I got the point. I did not see what merits Schrumpter a place in the pantheon however. Some catchy words, entrepreneurship, the swarm, scientific rational socialism etc. I did however come to appreciate Heilbroner's point that economics should be seen as a foster child of philosophy rather than a dismal science of numbers and data crunching. Ultimately it is about the structure of society and human relationships in a practical way to their environment and each other. Probably for our own time period this is also far too simple an analysis of the toxic and volatile mixture of economic, political and social forces currently twisting and churning out of control, and by no means headed toward greater human enlightenment.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason Furman

    The Worldly Philosopher should be required reading for all economists and is also a book I would highly recommend to all non economists as well. I last read it about 30 years ago and although I have learned a lot in the interim, and economics has advanced some as well, it has actually aged reasonably well. Moreover, much of the writing is genuinely beautiful and makes you want to read it aloud to various people you come across, a feeling one rarely if ever gets with an economics book. The Wordly The Worldly Philosopher should be required reading for all economists and is also a book I would highly recommend to all non economists as well. I last read it about 30 years ago and although I have learned a lot in the interim, and economics has advanced some as well, it has actually aged reasonably well. Moreover, much of the writing is genuinely beautiful and makes you want to read it aloud to various people you come across, a feeling one rarely if ever gets with an economics book. The Wordly Philosophers presents a series of great men (yes, they’re all men) from Adam Smith through Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen to John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpter. Most of these men get a chapter with a thumbnail biography, a description of their major intellectual arguments, and a critical appraisal of them. In few cases he does a combination portrait (e.g., David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus share a chapter which nicely uses them as counterpoints to each other) or more of a group picture (a number of Victorian classical economists share a chapter, with more focus on Alfred Marshall but also Jevons and many others as well). The biographies are interesting and fun, although they generally cover the familiar stories and well trod ground that a number of readers will already be familiar with. More important, Robert Heilbroner does an excellent job of providing historical context and, sometimes, consequences for that authors he writes about. In his interpretation, as long as the economy was run by a combination of tradition and authority there was no need for economics. But as the market and division of labor grew up it needed someone to explain/rationalize it. And that someone was Adam Smith. Smith’s strength, however, was a static and harmonious picture and he missed the dynamics and their consequences that Malthus wrote about or the class conflicts that Ricardo and, more famously, Marx addressed. Keynes writing in the middle of the Depression was focused on the permanence of bad equilibria and Schumpeter writing following an era of increased industrial concentration chose to lionize it etc. While Heilbroner emphasizes the historical roots of the different ideas, he also includes a slightly history of ideas that is less of a Whig history of progression and more a complicated story of accretion of knowledge but also accretion of flawed ways of thinking as well as alternation between all of the above. For example, Heilbroner describes the ways that the presentation of ideas alternates, from the vivid, lifelike descriptions of Smith and Marx to the bloodless abstractions of Ricardo, Malthus and Keynes. From the treating everyone as similar types of agents (Marshall) to thinking of them in classes (Ricard and Marx). For a focus on statics (Smith, Ricardo and Marshall) to dynamics (Malthus, Marx, and Schumpeter). And many other different approaches that appear, disappear and reappear over time. The book is most decidedly not Whig history in that it ends on a critical note, lamenting the increased aspirations to “science” by the economics profession, pointing out that words like capitalism barely appear in the leading introductory textbooks. He argues that economics should be about understanding comparative systems and institutions, like the US vs. Scandinivaian model. I agree that more comparative institutional analysis would be welcome in economics but strongly disagree with his characterization and dismissal of much of the field. The aspirations of economics to a more scientific basis are just that, aspirations, but mostly it is a health aspiration that has produced internally coherent theories and, more importantly, convincing causal empirical evidence on a wide range of really important questions. Moreover, while there are fewer explicitly “Worldly Philosophers” today, Heilbroner does point out that most of the ones he writes about were actually completely wrong (e.g., Hobson built an entire theory on capitalism on underconsumption by rich countries that would force them to export capital, but the United States at least overconsumes and imports capital, in many cases from poorer countries). And I think there is a little more Worldly Philosophy than meets the eye in economics even today, like behavioral economics or liberal/libertarian approaches or various writings on inequality and bargaining power. Not that everything is perfect, but with some exceptions I think a Whig history would be closer to right when it comes to the last 50 or even 250 years of economics.

  12. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    Read as an audiobook. As far as I know, this is an excellent and amusing introduction to economics. I certainly enjoyed the breadth and depth to which Heilbroner explored the topic, arguing intelligently for how, why, and when economics came about, and the tracing its strange, wavering history through the politics, war, and geography of the modern world. The inclusion of not only scientists and revolutionaries but satirists, idealists, religious fanatics, armchair hobbyists, and social theorists h Read as an audiobook. As far as I know, this is an excellent and amusing introduction to economics. I certainly enjoyed the breadth and depth to which Heilbroner explored the topic, arguing intelligently for how, why, and when economics came about, and the tracing its strange, wavering history through the politics, war, and geography of the modern world. The inclusion of not only scientists and revolutionaries but satirists, idealists, religious fanatics, armchair hobbyists, and social theorists helped to show the many ways in which goods, services, value, and power affect us all, personally and socially. I wish I knew more on the subject of economics, because I would like to say more about this book, but I have little to compare it to. As of this point, it's the best economics text I've read, which basically means that it's better than a semester's worth of Marxist apologists. It has been one of the leading textbooks for economics since it was published half a century ago, which either means it is remarkable and beyond reproach, or it is ill-informed, confused, and out-of-date. I suspect something closer to the former. I'll be seeking out some of more interesting texts mentioned here, and hopefully I'll have some chance to improve my economics education in the future.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This book consists of a series of short biographies of such economists as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, John M. Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter etc. The accounts of their lives are studded with anecdotes and amusing asides which disguise the fact that the reader is actually learning classical economic theory painlessly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    If you're a Goodreader (or a Virtual Bookshelfer?), you may have come to know and enjoy particular reviewers' reviews. For example, I've become something of a fan of the reviews of fellow Goodreaders Trevor McCandless and Ginnie Jones. I mean it as the height of compliments to say that reading Heilbroner is like reading McCandless and Jones. In a nutshell, Heilbroner surveys and summarizes the major ideas/writings and lives of economists beginning with Adam Smith and culminating in John Kenneth If you're a Goodreader (or a Virtual Bookshelfer?), you may have come to know and enjoy particular reviewers' reviews. For example, I've become something of a fan of the reviews of fellow Goodreaders Trevor McCandless and Ginnie Jones. I mean it as the height of compliments to say that reading Heilbroner is like reading McCandless and Jones. In a nutshell, Heilbroner surveys and summarizes the major ideas/writings and lives of economists beginning with Adam Smith and culminating in John Kenneth Galbraith. Malthus, Mill, and Marx all put in an appearance, among others, and the tone is always light, easy to read, thought-provoking, and entertaining. This book is apparently in its 7th edition, which I'll have to pick up, as the copy I read was the "Revised" (2nd edition) from 1961, thanks in no small part to my spouse's real (as opposed to virtual) bookshelf. That said, it's remarkable how current and applicable this historical review remains. There’s something prophetic in Heilbroner’s devoting 32 riveting (I’m serious) pages to Thorstein Veblen’s Vanderbilt/JP Morgan-era beliefs that (a) venal, corrupt CEOs serve more as parasites that suck the productivity of otherwise well-oiled industrial businesses (Halliburton, Enron, step right up), while cautioning against Veblen’s fascist-leaning desires to (b) place the salvation of corporate mores in the hands of its engineers/technocrats (hello, Gates-led Microsoft, Google, Apple, and every other innovation-driven corporation whose original vision gets corrupted into monolithic, monopolistic, make-‘em-buy-schlock attitudes, which “may stifle and frustrate our imaginations and emotions” a la Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times). (p. 212) I find myself greatly intrigued by the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, that ongoing investment (whether public or private) and the flow of currency from hand to hand to hand is what drives a capitalist economy (in which case, thank goodness for global markets and the communal stimulus of wikinomics). Since I can’t intellectually hold the hem of Keynes’ trousers, I don’t doubt for a minute that this is true – at least, I have no reason and insufficient math to rationally dispute it, but is that all? (I guess Galbraith, with his segregation of public and private activity into separate economies might say no, or at least not quite.) It sounds to me like a great shell game. Just keep hopes high and everything in motion and prosperity will follow. But if defense spending ultimately got us out of the Depression, we know it bankrupted the Soviet state. War is hell on both people and economies. Indulge me a one-paragraph rant/digression and excuse me for asking, but why must we squander so much taxpayer money on engines of destruction instead of promoting agents of understanding? Outreach? The arts? Education? Heck, I’d settle for more equitable distribution of good homes, food, and social welfare. America seems to have a preference for indulging millions of individual cruelties over running the risk of collective incompetence. Doesn’t seem to gibe with the Constitutional concept of check-and-balance, but perhaps I’m conflating two unrelated bases of policy. In any case, I feel strongly that economic and social policy (public or private) should promote in some positive way one or more of the essentials for life (food, shelter, clothing, personal safety, and mutual tolerance) without sacrificing one or more of another. In our mutually inconsistent priorities and definitions, there the devil lies. Rant over. Two more 'what I learned from this book' observations. First, I wonder if Heilbroner has evolved from his position of almost half a century ago that in (occasionally) regulating market forces to promote moral ends (for example, favoring the tyranny of oligopoly over that of outright monopoly, investing in social security, workfare, or unemployment plans, health and safety regulations, etc.) “society no longer obeys its economic impulse alone.” (p. 283, emphasis in Heilbroner) Why should economics restrict its definition of value to those that can be monetized (raw materials, labor, capital, goods)? Rather, why can we not include in our calculus the value of improving the lot of our neighbor, or less altruistically, just simply enjoying Life-on-Earth, the Ride? I know I’ve read this idea recently, though I don’t think I’ve been exposed to any philosopher’s application of it. It would seem to throw wide open the realm of economics into an impossible-to-predict iterative complex like the weather, as wholly incompatible individual value systems are understood to influence communal activity. (Case in point, as this Goodreader indulges in, er… invests his time in… his passion for online blather, an activity that in conjunction with the like activity of millions of others around the world presumably helps drive the engine of the internet as a whole. And thanks again to the McCandlesses and Joneses whose shared passion adds tremendously to my weekly literary consumption.) Second, I note that Heilbroner ends the Revised Edition (pp. 290-292) by classifying the spectrum of economic philosophy from the Marxists (“at the extreme left;” dooming capitalism in the long run, when as Keynes would have it, “we are all dead”) through the socialists, the “advocates of managed capitalism” (distinguished from socialists since these advocates “do not believe that capitalism must disappear, and… do not want to displace the institution of private ownership with public ownership”), and ending with the “Right-of-Center” laissez-faire capitalists (like Adam Smith?) who believe that good things (or at least no worse things) come simply of leaving God to sort out the mess however it may unspool. I’ve always been flummoxed at how this spectrum was arbitrarily laid out in a metaphoric left-to-right axis (surely not Heilbroner’s concern), and more puzzled still by what seem to me to be pointless distinctions. Here I find myself with John Stuart Mill, who (Heilbroner has taught me) wrote that, “The things are there, [we:], individually or collectively, can do with them as [we:] please…. The distribution of wealth, therefore, depends on the laws and customs of society.” (quoted at p. 108) In other words, our lives do not depend on economics defined as the laws of production, but on politics defined as the laws we establish and effort we exert to spread material joy irrespective of geography and immediate self-interest. So Heilbroner appears inconsistent between restricting economists’ purview to worldly (material) philosophy on the one hand and allowing this purview a spectrum defined by the level of tolerance for political (immaterial) intervention on the other. This is a red herring; Heilbroner illustrates throughout the book how the output of these major thinkers was of their time and yet resonates still. I’m happy to testify to this, as I’ve felt my horizons expand for the pleasure of their temporary company. A Goodreads proof -- check the consensus -- good books make a reader verbose.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed Almahdi

    Economics is important to be grasped and digested by all people. It is in direct touch with our lives and our wellbeing. As time passes further it is witnessed that life becomes more complex and the systems that govern our activity gets reshaped, expecting us human to adapt to the continuous changes. Life is no longer a trade-based agricultural traditional life of early civilizations. The industrial revolution and the technological advancements that associated it have resulted in a tremendously Economics is important to be grasped and digested by all people. It is in direct touch with our lives and our wellbeing. As time passes further it is witnessed that life becomes more complex and the systems that govern our activity gets reshaped, expecting us human to adapt to the continuous changes. Life is no longer a trade-based agricultural traditional life of early civilizations. The industrial revolution and the technological advancements that associated it have resulted in a tremendously compounded shift in the way mankind lives, triggering an unstoppable economic machine to work, that if halted, God forbids, our lives shall drown in catastrophes. As the secondary title of the book explains itself, this book talks about the “lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers” as a response, in my opinion, to that complexity that emerged in the new mode of life. These men admit that a new mode of production of services and goods has emerged with the industrial revolution and that life is no longer same as before. But acknowledging changes is not enough. They tried analyzing the changes that occurred in their lifetimes, explaining how it emerged and how it worked, detecting its flaws and providing suggestions and modifications to amend these flaws, and most importantly predicting the short-term and long-term societal influence of their contemporary mode of production. The book can be a very good read for those who have not read about economics before and those who are familiar with the subject. For beginners, the author provides multiple views about economics and its problems as he presents the ideas of the economists, the problems they tried to solve, and the solutions they suggested. Moreover, the approach the author uses in presenting the topic is very enjoyable. For those who have read numerous popular-economics, this book is one of the must read about economics history, except for only one flaw which is presenting the topic from a leftist perspective. I do not know why the author excludes free-market economists. I think speaking about one or two would have made the book interesting and complete without adding much length to it. Therefore, I do not think this book is free from being biased to a particular extreme, but I also do not think that it is the job of the author to be completely unbiased. It is the reader’s job to do the proper research by referring to other books and references to have the full picture of biases and conflicts clear, that is if the reader is reading for accuracy and moderation not entertainment. If one is interested in reading a book about the history of free market advocates – Austrian School of Economics, then I recommend It Didn't Have to Be This Way: Why Boom and Bust Is Unnecessary—and How the Austrian School of Economics Breaks the Cycle. The author mainly talks about eight economists, whom he thinks they are worldly philosophers (Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Marx, Veblen, Keynes and Schumpeter), but he also specifies some chapters to present the lives and ideas of utopian socialists (Robert Owen, Saint-Simon and John Stuart Mill) and economists of the Victorian era (Edgeworth, Bastiat, Henry George, Hobson, and Marshall.) Of all these economists, I only read for Marx the “Wage-Labor and Capital” which I found its ideas briefly explained in the book. I am also very familiar with the ideas of Smith, Malthus (I referred to him a lot in an essay I wrote when I was doing my undergrad), and Keynes (mainly the current indirectly dominant mixed-economics basis for contemporary policies and legislations of many countries.) However, this book has persuaded me to reconsider the effectiveness of the variety of any propositions and solutions of the right and the left in improving our wellbeing. In my opinion, it is very difficult to take a side with a particular economic position as both positions — and their branches of sub-positions and sub-ideas — have their “apparent” reasonable arguments, and even the presumptions that these economic ideas and theories are based on cannot be refuted easily, in fact they might be irrefutable. They appear reasonable and “coherent” and, therefore, our reason should be in continuous check when economic discussions are raised – unlike what is going on in many text-message based groups where we easily state our conclusive prognosis of current economic situations. An example of a false idea widely spread by conservatives is attributing to Adam Smith the position of being absolutely against government intervention in supporting the economy, providing public sector production and services, and in preventing any exploitations made by the businessmen — claimed to be inexistent by conservatives. Nevertheless, the author of the book directly quotes lines from the works of the economists as he explains their ideas and works. Regarding Smiths’ opinion about the public investment, the author quotes: “… erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works which may be in the highest degree advantageous to great society.” And for the government role in preventing exploitations of the public by the merchants, the author quotes Smith saying: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some diversion to raise prices.” Quoting from the reference adds more credibility to authors. Overall, it is a good economic history book and biography of the mentioned economists. P.S. I could have made this review extensive but I hardly have time and I am trying to continuously write reviews to maintain the level of my English writing skills. Besides, I think it is difficult to write an extensive well-written review about a book if notes have not been taken while reading, something I have not done while reading this book but I am trying to develop in my future reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Savil Srivastava

    A history of the big ideas in Economics from Adam Smith to Mill to Marx to Keynes. Written in the 1950s so doesn't get into Hayek/Friedman. Wonderful book that I highly recommend, because Heilbroner not only lucidly explains the core ideas but also puts them into context: we're taken into the society that each of these economists lived in, and their own personal lives and how these likely affected their views on the political-economy. A history of the big ideas in Economics from Adam Smith to Mill to Marx to Keynes. Written in the 1950s so doesn't get into Hayek/Friedman. Wonderful book that I highly recommend, because Heilbroner not only lucidly explains the core ideas but also puts them into context: we're taken into the society that each of these economists lived in, and their own personal lives and how these likely affected their views on the political-economy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Palash Bansal

    Having studied economics for the last 3 years, in all fairness to the professors and myself, I did imbibe the concepts of it. But all the theories were like little pieces of autarky islands. What was missing was a common thread that could join everything together such that it all ends up making complete sense. This book certainly helped a lot in doing so!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sotiris Makrygiannis

    fascinating book about the life and eccentricities of world class economists. I liked the summaries and insight view of their living. looks like that all of them were anti capitalists but didn't found any other way so they wrote a books on the faults of the economy. seriously guys can we reduce life to a math equation? fascinating book about the life and eccentricities of world class economists. I liked the summaries and insight view of their living. looks like that all of them were anti capitalists but didn't found any other way so they wrote a books on the faults of the economy. seriously guys can we reduce life to a math equation?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Cyril

    A fascinating book. Heilbroner effortlessly communicates the ideas of classical economic theory while providing the reader with amusing anecdotes about the men behind this theoretical development.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Well written doesn't do it justice. Lucid, pretty comprehensive, multi-faceted, learned, juicy, addictive. Economics sucks, we all know why Carlyle called it "the dismal science"....because its bloody dismal. But Heilbroner succeeds beautifully at writing it in such a way that its effortless. I felt like I grasped a little more about Smith and Marx and Schumpeter (!) than I would have if I had tried other means of getting myself aquainted with these supremely influential men. Also, he gets into bio Well written doesn't do it justice. Lucid, pretty comprehensive, multi-faceted, learned, juicy, addictive. Economics sucks, we all know why Carlyle called it "the dismal science"....because its bloody dismal. But Heilbroner succeeds beautifully at writing it in such a way that its effortless. I felt like I grasped a little more about Smith and Marx and Schumpeter (!) than I would have if I had tried other means of getting myself aquainted with these supremely influential men. Also, he gets into biographical details which usually do a lot for me since my dearst and first love was fiction. I can associate what I'm learning better when I've got a context with which to place it. I mean, thinkers aren't just thought machines....they have hearts and livers and mouths and hands. Bias, interestingly, doesn't even come close to entering the picture. Thanks for that! I read through the entire thing looking eagerly for lefty sympathies and turns out there were none to be seen, at least overtly. But, joke's on me, cause I ended up finding out he's a democratic socialist after all! And a pretty hard core one, at that. So it's more to his credit that he can have convictions and not let it poison his pen and blind him, as it were. Exceptional book about exceptional subject that is very much the exception for math-haters like myself. I need to go back there and refresh my understanding since this is the real deal stuff that affects our everyday lives....not that you needed reminding.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    So interesting and what an introduction! The idea that has most stuck with me in the book, I felt, is that in a group of non-industrialized peoples, increasing wages will result in a voluntary decrease of hours instead of an increase or no change. The concept of accumulating wealth while sacrificing free time is not inherent! Imagine that....we are so tied into this system of living that we forget alternatives are possible sometimes. I would never even think of cutting my hours if I got a raise So interesting and what an introduction! The idea that has most stuck with me in the book, I felt, is that in a group of non-industrialized peoples, increasing wages will result in a voluntary decrease of hours instead of an increase or no change. The concept of accumulating wealth while sacrificing free time is not inherent! Imagine that....we are so tied into this system of living that we forget alternatives are possible sometimes. I would never even think of cutting my hours if I got a raise =) But overall the book is a living breathing history of economic thought and the interesting people who have shaped the way to the modern world. A bit like Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, yet for economics. Though, as this was written much earlier than Bryson I would not be surprised if he had read it... Both are infused with just enough history, personality quirks, and good stories to make you feel the subjects are simply the most interesting available. Perhaps your economics teachers, history teachers and science teachers deserve a good walloping for making such rich subjects so completely boring in high school.....

  22. 5 out of 5

    J

    Like many weepy humanists, I don't read many books that deal with economics in a sincere, deep way (too dry, too mathy, the usual wimpy criticisms.) Heilbroner's overview is wonderful, not simply because he breaks down several notoriously byzantine, ideologically fraught economic world systems, but because he shows the reader the sincere human inquiries at the center of them. What is our world like? How did it get that way? Is it possible to exert control over it? Economics in our age is, like so Like many weepy humanists, I don't read many books that deal with economics in a sincere, deep way (too dry, too mathy, the usual wimpy criticisms.) Heilbroner's overview is wonderful, not simply because he breaks down several notoriously byzantine, ideologically fraught economic world systems, but because he shows the reader the sincere human inquiries at the center of them. What is our world like? How did it get that way? Is it possible to exert control over it? Economics in our age is, like so much else, polarized along militantly political lines. We demonize the thinkers on the other side of the fence just as readily as we tend to ignore, misunderstand or simply forget those we think are in our camp. This book shows the history of a set of men who struggled to make sense of their world, of its nature and its cycles of boom and bust as our planet transitioned (and still continues to) from a primitive agrarian society to an increasingly market-centric one. It's a potent and important reminder that, aside from its reputation, economics is at root an intensely humanistic field. This is an excellent primer on the subject at large. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phoenix2

    Great book!! Reading it felt like being in the classroom with someone explaining to me the theories and everything. Many examples that make it easier to understand the points raised and I loved that it included biographies in it as well!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Atheer

    This book is far away from supply and demand diagrams and equations familiar to every economics student. It is merely focused on the idea of the economy as a social entity and what we went through throughout history to shape its concepts.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Explores the development of economic theory 3 September 2012 A friend at lawschool recommended this book to me after I had decided to read the works of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes in the hope that I could glean some ideas on how to become wealthy. My belief was that wealth lay in understanding the basics of economics, and when it came to economics, I believed that the basics could be found in a number of authors that my American History lecturer had mentioned who had been quintessential in Explores the development of economic theory 3 September 2012 A friend at lawschool recommended this book to me after I had decided to read the works of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes in the hope that I could glean some ideas on how to become wealthy. My belief was that wealth lay in understanding the basics of economics, and when it came to economics, I believed that the basics could be found in a number of authors that my American History lecturer had mentioned who had been quintessential in determining the economic policy of the time. My friend then recommended this book to me, and in a way I am glad he did because by reading this book I came to understand that there are more than just four people who developed the social science known as economics. Now, I noticed one review on Goodreads making a comment about whether economics actually is a science. In my opinion it is a science, but it falls into the category of 'soft' or 'social' science, as opposed to the 'hard' or 'physical' sciences. The differences between the two sciences is that the hard sciences tend to be easier to measure and determine than the soft sciences. However, just because a field of study cannot be measured quantitatively, it does not mean that it is any less of a science than say physics or chemistry. To be blunt, hard sciences are based just as much on conjecture and supposition as is history, economics, and political science. If one wants to get into something that rests purely on hard facts, then the best you can get is mathematics, and even then one can prove anything with mathematics simply by starting off with a specific proposition. As for becoming wealthy by reading the works of the great economists; once again that is pure supposition. It is possible, but in the end the only way to wealth is either through hard work, connections, luck, or a mixture of all three. However, by understanding the theories put forward by the economists, one can understand the way commerce works, and by understanding it, can use one's knowledge to take advantage of such things. However, remember this, many of these economists were hardly wealthy in an of themselves: Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen for instance. Also, just because a Nobel prize winning economist says something does not necessarily mean that it is right. The founders of Long Term Capital Management won Nobel prizes for their mathematical equation used to determine the price of options, and then proceeded to send the United States to the brink of economic collapse. The same goes with Milton Friedman, who continually praised the free markets and the invisible hand, only to die a few months prior to the entire edifice collapsing. We are still living in the aftermath of the banking crisis which has effectively crippled the developed world, as well as bringing the developing world down with it. As for the book, I found it quite enlightening as he explores who he believes were the major contributors to the economic theories that fly about the world today. Economics was not invented with Adam Smith, people have been buying and selling, and participating in complex financial transactions long before he came around. Insurance had existed as far back as the ancient times, and the bond market grew out of the sophisticated banking systems of Renaissance Italy. What Adam Smith did was step back, look at what was going on, and wrote it down. Even then he wasn't the first as people have been developing economic theory long before he appeared on the scene. In fact, it is interesting to note that Verblen flagged the Christian Church as being the first example of a franchise. Studying economics, and postulating economic theory, is not going to make you rich, but what it is going to do is to help you understand how trade and commerce work. However, like all of the soft sciences (and even the hard sciences) opinions are going to differ. Some are going to point at a single passage in Adam Smith and claim that the market works best when left alone, whereas I will point at Adam Smith and show that he believes that one of the ways to completely ruin an economic system is to allow businessmen to influence and run the government. Some will say that greed is good, whereas I will say that greed is destructive, and the thing is that I believe that I am right, but others will violently disagree. In the end, I guess that is why they ended up executing Socrates and Jesus Christ, among others, simply because their world views rubbed the wrong people up the wrong way. In the end, who cares, if I go the way of Socrates and Jesus Christ, at least my theories will survive the test of time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian Robertson

    There’s a good reason this is the second best selling economics book of all time (the first is Paul Samuelson’s Economics textbook, which was prescribed by professors for introductory economics classes for decades): its subject matter - the great economic thinkers, or “worldly philosophers - is both timeless and assembled with great care; and the erudition and style with which Heilbroner writes is unparalleled.  With seven editions over more than 60 years (Heilbroner died in 2005), this landmark There’s a good reason this is the second best selling economics book of all time (the first is Paul Samuelson’s Economics textbook, which was prescribed by professors for introductory economics classes for decades): its subject matter - the great economic thinkers, or “worldly philosophers - is both timeless and assembled with great care; and the erudition and style with which Heilbroner writes is unparalleled.  With seven editions over more than 60 years (Heilbroner died in 2005), this landmark book should continue to serve as an introduction and reference for years to come. The text flows chronologically, with ample references forward and back in time as necessary to provide context, starting with the smaller building blocks of economic thought prior to Adam Smith and progressing with separate chapters for Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, Marx, Veblen, Keynes and Schumpeter.  There are two additional chapters - one for the Utopian Socialists of the early 1800s, including John Stuart Mill, and a second for the Victorian era, including Bastiat, Henry George, and John Hobson.  The seventh edition also includes a new concluding chapter lamenting “The End of Worldly Philosophy”, or more specifically the evolution of economics as a science disaggregated from its necessary social causes and effects. It’s not difficult to find information on any of the people noted above, or to access their major works.  What sets this book apart is the seamless weaving of the subjects' accomplishments into a compelling narrative along with a context and frame of reference for assessing their work.  In this regard, Heilbroner’s work stands at the opposite end of the scale from the excellent but inevitably dry reference books commonly available. Heilbroner’s literary style is unlike that of any economic or financial writer today.  Most today write factually and clearly, and in the case of Michael Lewis and a few others, with a flair for character development and storytelling.  Only John Kenneth Galbraith matches Heilbroner’s elevation of his prose to literary level, enjoyable not only for the content, but for the grace and style with which it is delivered. While some may feel that Heilbroner editorializes too much for a historical survey, he is a wise and genial guide, his commentary is well placed and apolitical, and his insight serves to highlight some of the economic debate that continues to this day.  The only major flaw with the book is that, despite the seven updated editions, there would appear to be few contributions to the field of economics in the past half century.  Thorsten Veblen has a chapter, but Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Samuelson, Daniel Kahneman, Amartya Sen and others receive scant or no attention. A landmark book that can be enjoyed by both seasoned professionals and those new to the field. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shaunak Bhatt

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First couple of chapters of this book deal with rise of industries and economies which interacted with each other on national level , I am highly impressed by the authors work providing context (social and historical) to the Adam smiths work and how it is misunderstood or has been corrupted with shameless deviations that we see in terms of capitalism we follow now specifically with regards to role of government in society. Next he explains the views of Malthus who did a lot of work on population First couple of chapters of this book deal with rise of industries and economies which interacted with each other on national level , I am highly impressed by the authors work providing context (social and historical) to the Adam smiths work and how it is misunderstood or has been corrupted with shameless deviations that we see in terms of capitalism we follow now specifically with regards to role of government in society. Next he explains the views of Malthus who did a lot of work on population growth and it effects on economies and David Ricardo who argued against the system of landowning and how their theories turned the viewpoint of their contemporaries from the optimism based on adam smiths work into pessimism based on predictions that it would be difficult to improve the lives of poor individuals because of population growth and the structure of the society. The next chapter is based on the ideals given by john stuart mill, robert owen and others for the need of socialism basically capitalism with a moral compass and some control of state, their emphasis on liberty and gradual changes in functioning of economies which would lead to a better society in terms of livable conditions and stability. Next he comes to the predictions that karl marx made about the capitalism, monopolies and labour class in general which came true in next 100 years in europe and asia, where the proletariats lost faith in institutions of monarchy and capitalism. I was also surprised to know that he very accurately predicted why there would be revolutions which will replace the old order but he did not prescribe in detail what to do after them and how to sustain the new order. Next he discusses a bunch of 19th century economists and philosophers from Fredric Batistat a free trader who heavily critiqued protectionist measures of the govt of that time to John hobson interesting ideas about imperialism being inseparable from capitalism to emphasis on individual by alfred marshall. Next he moves on to ideas of keynes on contraction of economy in light of american depression of 30s and world war 1 and 2, the author has very effectively explained the views that keynes had and why they went out of fashion post 70s.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karn Satyarthi

    I had hoped for good biographical sketches on world's best ever economists before beginning this book but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was much more than just that. Heilbroner essentially deals with the historical development of economic theory through the work of some of its greatest exponents. The chapters on Thorstein Veblen and early socialists like Owen, Saint Simon and Fourier are especially illuminating. The author does well to divorce Marx's work from later day Marxists. I had hoped for good biographical sketches on world's best ever economists before beginning this book but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was much more than just that. Heilbroner essentially deals with the historical development of economic theory through the work of some of its greatest exponents. The chapters on Thorstein Veblen and early socialists like Owen, Saint Simon and Fourier are especially illuminating. The author does well to divorce Marx's work from later day Marxists. The chapter on Keynes gives us a relevant insight into the economics of the inter war years. I just hope that someone good enough adds chapters on Friedman and Hayek to the existing work to round off this excellent introductory work.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Raise your hands if you've read The Wealth of Nations. Keynes' General Theory. Any of Capital beyond Volume 1? Or even Volume 1 itself? Economics, really, of any stripe beyond the occasional Krugman columns in the Times, or a quick Wikipedia search from time to time? That's what I thought. Literary types don't read much in the way of economics, and I don't read enough, which is a shame, because it is such a critical part of thought. Heilbroner's little history is a fantastic way to approach the wo Raise your hands if you've read The Wealth of Nations. Keynes' General Theory. Any of Capital beyond Volume 1? Or even Volume 1 itself? Economics, really, of any stripe beyond the occasional Krugman columns in the Times, or a quick Wikipedia search from time to time? That's what I thought. Literary types don't read much in the way of economics, and I don't read enough, which is a shame, because it is such a critical part of thought. Heilbroner's little history is a fantastic way to approach the world of economics from a humanist perspective, embedded in biography and history, and it's the sort of thing that even the most mathematically phobic can find engrossing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bakunin

    I read it for economic history. It gives a good introduction to some influential economists and therefore provides a background to understanding why we think the way we do today. I would've preferred that the author spend more time explaining the work which these economists made rather than writing their biographies. If he did I would've understood the classical and neo-classical school much better (instead of having to read Murray Rothbards critique of Marshall in order to understand the differ I read it for economic history. It gives a good introduction to some influential economists and therefore provides a background to understanding why we think the way we do today. I would've preferred that the author spend more time explaining the work which these economists made rather than writing their biographies. If he did I would've understood the classical and neo-classical school much better (instead of having to read Murray Rothbards critique of Marshall in order to understand the difference between the schools).

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