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Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius Paperback – July 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684872994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684872995
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for 'A Beautiful Mind' 'Tells a moving story and offers a remarkable look into the arcane world of mathematics and the tragedy of madness'. The New York Times Book Review 'Might be compared to a Rembrandt portrait, filled with somber shadows and radiant light effects!superbly written and eminently fascinating!simply a beautiful book.' The Boston Globe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sylvia Nasar is the author of the bestselling A Beautiful Mind, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. She is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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Customer Reviews

Ms. Nasar writes extremely well, and I found the entire book engrossing.
Byron
The author has not made even the slightest attempt to describe the basic economic ideas of the economists presented in the book.
SantosVega
Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, in Grand Pursuit provides us a wide ranging history of modern economic thought.
Lynn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In the Grand Pursuit, Sylvia Nasar, the widely acclaimed author of A Beautiful Mind, writes a sweeping history of the evolution of modern economics through the lens of the discipline's most famous scholars and theorists. It is ambitious in scope, based on some very solid research and often a compelling read. But at the same time it is overly broad and, ultimately, does not yield many new insights into its subject matter.

The author argues, rightly, that the idea that human prosperity could be created and managed is a relatively new one. Before the mid-nineteenth century most assumed that the vast bulk of humanity was destined to live in poverty and squalor and that there was not much that could be done about this. But during this era, a group of scholars including Marx, Engels, and Schumpeter emerged and contended that the lives of human beings could be improved through the proper management of the economy. Nasar retells how difficult economic circumstances have been at certain points in world history and looks at the efforts of leading economists to contribute to prosperity during their respective eras. In Nasar's broad survey we encounter many of the best-known economists of the past 150 years and learn about their personal lives, their contributions to the discipline, and how they tried to influence policy. Throughout her skillfully constructed narrative, Nasar demonstrates a remarkable grasp of the major ideas of almost every major economist that readers could think of. She describes the importance of John Maynard Keynes, Beatrice Potter Webb (the inventor of the idea of the welfare state), Milton Friedman and Amartya Sen among others both to the discipline of economics and to policy making. In this sense, the book is probably the most comprehensive history of its kind.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful By DRDR on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked the concept behind "The Grand Pursuit." Economic science has been increasingly under attack in recent years, so I'm pleased that Sylvia Nasar provided a mass-marketed perspective on the value of economic thought from the mid-19th century onwards. This book, or one like it, should be read by anyone who takes for granted modern economic growth and the ideas that helped make it possible. Yet the book is too much hodgepodge. Nasar's choices of which economists to portray and what aspects of their lives to profile seems arbitrary. She spices up the material by grouping it together in three acts - Hope, Fear, and Confidence - but such framing is no substitute for deeper care in the selection and organization of the material.

The organization is more like a sandwich than a 3-act play: the first five and last three chapters profile individual economists, while the meat of the story is the middle 10 chapters, portraying the interaction between economists like Fisher, Keynes and Hayek both between the World Wars and in the aftermath. The heroes of the early chapters like Marshall had less direct role in policy, but their ideas were crucial to shaping our understanding of the world.

Nasar observes that throughout history, there have been powerful people who looked at the world purely in zero-sum terms. Her heroes understood that the future need not be so bleak. I wish this book made a more coherent and convincing case for such an important truth.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By K. Kehler on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a fine book, something that makes this review hard to write, because I don't wish to appear callous or nitpicking. While I like the book I also feel slightly let down, for while it has genuine merit -- It's a pretty quick read, it's very informative (on certain topics), and it is entertaining and interesting -- it really isn't what the title says it is. Specifically, as others have pointed out, it isn't a history of economic thought or economic theories. It is a series of quite interesting biographical snapshots of various important economic thinkers, warts and all. At its best, this book is good intellectual history: or more accurately, good intellectual historical contextualizing, and so it is definitely worth acquiring, if this interests you. But for a history of economic theorizing, look elsewhere.
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39 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Padman on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Grand Pursuit, as Nassar writes, is the ambitious quest to improve the material well-being of everyone in a given society. The tale starts in the mid-1800s when it was assumed that "nine parts of mankind" would live in misery and poverty. But as Burke was making that claim, the Industrial Revolution was gaining steam thanks to the classical economists, and the world was changing forever.

While this book ably covers the big picture economic developments of the last 200 years (the Industrial Revolution, class warfare, the rise of the welfare state), it is really about the economists that thunk the thoughts that made up that history. We find out what kind of people Marx, Marshall, Fischer, Keynes, Schumpeter, Hayek, and Friedman were, and so get a better glimpse of the life and times behind the genius.

In engaging vignettes, the author reveals that Marx wrote Das Kapital without having visited a factory and that his income placed him among the top 2% in Britain; that it was a woman, Beatrice Webb who invented the concept of the welfare state; and that the prize monetarist Milton Friedman was the one who first suggested the automatic income tax withholding (a measure he later denounced).

Since the author focuses on the lives of the economists, one doesn't get a fully-formed economic theory such as the one in Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It. The themes and implications do amount to something of an assertion--that industrialism is the source of the widespread increase in well-being, and that capitalism, not socialism is the best mechanism for supporting it.

Altogether, this is a welcomed addition to any economist's bookshelf, and a fantastic follow-up for one of the best storytellers in economics today.
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