The New York Times
Keynes: The Return of the Masterby Robert Skidelsky
In the debris of the financial crash of 2008, the principles of John Maynard Keynesthat economic storms are a normal part of the market system, that governments need to step in and use fiscal ammunition to prevent these storms from becoming depressions, and that societies that value the pursuit of money should reprioritizeare more pertinent and applicable than ever. In Keynes: The Return of the Master, Robert Skidelsky brilliantly synthesizes Keynes career and life, and offers nervous capitalists a positive answer to the question we now face: When unbridled capitalism falters, is there an alternative?
The New York Times
The Washington Post
“The book offers clear and cogent critiques of modern macroeconomic thought, along with a brief but useful summary of what went wrong in 2007-9.”
Financial Times, October 18, 2010
“Skidelsky’s succinct, lively, unashamed paean analyses Keynes’s core values and offers a persuasive pitch for the contemporary relevance (and necessity) of his ideas.”
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Meet the Author
Robert Skidelsky is the Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three volume biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes (1983, 1992, 2000) received numerous prizes, including the Lionel Gelber Prize for International Relations and the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award. He is the author of The World After Communism (1995). He was made a life peer in 1991, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1994.
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The modern recession casts doubt on many long-held economic beliefs, in particular, the validity of free markets. Unable to agree on causes or remedies, economists look on as politicians try various kinds of stimulus spending and corporate bailouts. Pundits call forth the ghost of John Maynard Keynes, often incorrectly labeled as a has-been socialist and tax-and-spend liberal. But Robert Skidelsky, Keynes' biographer and a noted expert on the economist and his work, reveals how Keynes' pre-World War II experiences shaped an economic worldview that still holds lessons for the 21st century. This scholarly book assumes that the reader has more than a nodding acquaintance with modern economic theory and philosophy, yet Skidelsky also injects literary references and sparks of wit that enliven the sometimes-challenging text. getAbstract suggests this abbreviated, but solid, look at Keynes to students of economic and political history, and to anyone who is trying to make sense of how the 2008 crisis happened and how to move forward.
Dont buy this book via the nook reader for iPod. B&n wouldn't provide the download and their customer service desk don't know what the problem could be.
Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick and biographer of John Maynard Keynes, has written a brilliant little book. He shows how Keynes' ideas can help us to get out of the slump. He compares the effects of the Keynesian paradigm with the effects of Thatcherism: "the former had less unemployment, higher growth, lower exchange-rate volatility and lower inequality." Between 1951 and 1973 global GDP grew by 4.8 per cent a year; between 1980 and 2009, by 3.2 per cent. In Britain, GDP fell from 2.5 per cent to 2.1 per cent, while unemployment soared from 1.6 per cent to 7.4 per cent. Skidelsky writes, "Keynes (like Anthony Crosland in the 1950s) thought that managerial control of large corporations would expand their 'public motives'. He did not foresee the explosion of the bonus culture, which would give managers incentives to rip off both shareholders and the wider public." Capitalism grows less, not more, public-spirited, as bankers grow more rent-seeking and free-riding. Printing more money will not bring recovery; we need 'government action to increase aggregate spending', not cuts. As the author notes, "Experience of Japan's great recession of the 1990s confirms that if the private sector is de-leveraging - reducing spending to reduce its debts - then public sector de-leveraging - cutting its deficit - will deepen, not lighten, recession." Britain's investment is now 25 per cent down from pre-slump levels. Keynes wrote aptly, "a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment." But he did not ask how we could do this when Britain's 'politically dominant financial sector' used 'state power to promote financial interests'. Skidelsky sums up that we need to tame finance (as the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 did) by splitting commercial from investment banking; we need high public spending for full employment; we need 'a government-backed infrastructure bank', 'more equitable distribution of wealth and incomes', 'control of hot money flows' and protection of our industries. (As Keynes observed, it is better to produce cars inefficiently than to produce nothing at all.)
This is a well written and interesting book. It is something of an appetizer in that it is short. I think it could have done with more technical insights. In that sense it is a little superficial. Worth reading but one is left wanting more.