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An Inquiry into the Human Prospect: Looked at Again for the 1990s Paperback – August 17, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0393961850 ISBN-10: 0393961850 Edition: 2 Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2 Revised edition (August 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393961850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393961850
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,360,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert L. Heilbroner was Norman Thomas Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research and author of The Worldly Philosophers and many other books.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on September 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book was written in the 1970's, so it isn't surprising that it has a quality of despair due to the energy crisis, the political effects of the Vietnam war and the social turmoil of the time. The 20 year later updates that the author has added after each chapter greatly add value to his original text, so be sure "updated for the 90's" is the subtitle of the edition you get. In contrast to another reviewer, I'd say the final chapter stands far above the specifics of the rest and would be worth reading now or at any time in the future.

The question is: can humanity survive the coming decades when pressures will come to bear that cannot be avoided? This is an extremely important question to those who live under capitalism (more of us all the time) which admits to no end to growth. The environment will increasingly resist efforts to grow the wealth of humanity as a whole as it is already challenged by the growth in the wealth of individuals (how many cars can be packed on a road when so many want bigger vehicles?) Societies of those accustomed to expecting and demanding more, knowing no limitation on freedom of action other than the need to accumulate money to buy things, will not receive limitations gladly. What would it mean to face the fact that at some point a generation must realize that, no, their children cannot live better than they do? Will one kind of social or political system be better suited to the future than others? Heilbroner's fears are that we will put current desires and comforts ahead of any concern for the future of our kind and will live life to the max until we hit a wall. He cites none other than Adam Smith writing of how self interest puts the slightest threat to one's own well-being far beyond horrors to great numbers of others on the other side of the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Curt D on September 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I understand that Heilbroner changed his position over time, but Marxism is dead and there is good reason for it. And I can't get past his longing for it when I read his works.
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Let me present three striking theses of Heilbroner and reconsider them from a contemporary perspective:
Thesis One: There are grave doubts whether there is "hope for man?" (p. 8), because of overburdening the planet, destruction of the biosphere, and dangers of "obliterative war" (p. 57). This question seems all the more justified in 2013, because of the potentials of biological weapons produced in "kitchen laboratories", a lot of fanaticism, increasing signs of approaching scarcities of some critical resources, devastating climate changes, and additional developments mentioned below.
2. To assure a long-term future for humanity revolutionary transformations are essential, such as reducing consumerism, decreasing disparities by large scale transfer of resources from rich to poor countries, and controlling dangerous weapons. I agree that radical transformations are essential, though some of the directions proposed in the book are not compelling, with others being more critical.
3. Democratic regimes and capitalist markets will be unable to bring about essential transformations, neither various models of socialism. Instead "an authoritarian, or possibly ...a revolutionary regime" of nation states is essential (p. 24), up to an order "that blends a `religious' orientation with a `military' discipline" (pp. 176-7), with "centralization of power as the only means by which our threatened and dangerous civilization will make way for its successor" (p. 179).
This is the most striking and also shocking thesis of the book. The author expresses dismay at having reached such a conclusion, but insists on it. I admire him for doing so and agree with him in principle.
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By Amazon Customer on March 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a business student here in the United States and had to read this for a class. It is a good book but I would say it is an acquired taste and preaches more than a little.
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More About the Author

Robert Heilbroner is the Norman Thomas Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at The New School for Social Research. He is the author of over twenty books, among them The Worldly Philosophers. He lives in New York City.

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An Inquiry into the Human Prospect: Looked at Again for the 1990s
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