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Keynes: The Return of the Master Paperback – October 26, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Foreign Affairs
“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.”

 

About 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158648897X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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143 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Dirk on September 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Skidelsky is the biographer of John Maynard Keynes and a historian with some background in economics. He divided his book in three parts. In the first part, he examines what went wrong and what this says about the present state of economics. He attacks the rational expectations hypothesis, real business cycle theory and the efficient (financial) markets theory. The main criticism is on the assumption of "Bell-Curve Economics", which describes theories that are based on Gaussian probabilities.

Part II is entitled "The Rise and Fall of Keynesian Economics" and describes Keynes and his economics in the context of the Great Depression. On p. 111-3, Skidelsky points out the difference between today's mainstream macroeconomics and the idea of Keynes. Some of these points could be argued with more clarity. Skidelsky fails to point out the implication of accepting Gaussian probabilities in financial markets, which is that financial markets can not be a source of "instability". However, this implication is probably clear to most economists and Skidelsky writes about this elsewhere (p.44).

In part III, The Return of Keynes, Skidelsky focuses mostly on philosophy and political economy. I reckon that this is the most interesting part of the book for most readers. Skidelsky raises "the old question of whether ideas are part of the base or the superstructure of social life - society's building blocks or weapons in the struggle for power." (p.115) and then continues to compare the ideas and performance of the Keynesian Bretton Woods System (1951-1973) with that of the neoliberal Washington Consensus System (1980-now).

This is followed by a chapter on the ethics of Keynes. Based on the philosopher G.E. Moore, Keynes ponders first the question on ethics "What is good?
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Dernetz on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent read for those who, like me, want a refresher on economic theory from Adam Smith to Paul Krugman. Skidelsky may be the ultimate authority on the life and work of John Maynard Keynes, having written a three-volume biography on the English philosopher turned economist, but his writing style is clear, lucid and full of information. He writes not just about Keynes, the revolutionary philosophical thinker who figured out how to counteract economic downturns, but puts Keynes's theories into perspective with easily understandable descriptions of the development of economic thinking from Adam Smith to today's headlines. Whether you agree with Keynes' theories or not, you cannot help but benefit from this penetrating survey of the history and theories of capitalism. And you just might gain some insights into the causes of the current economic problem and its solution.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on October 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Skidelsky argues, that like Keynes, all prospective economists should study ethics, philosophy, and political economy. I would go further, and say that society would benefit if the chapter on "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" were required reading by everyone with sufficient education to comprehend it. The book has concise, insightful analyses of the current economic crisis and of the Great Depression. As a college student of the 1960's, who learned Keynesian economics through the introductory Samuelson text, I learned very little about economic theory that I didn't know, but I blame this on the profession, not Skidelsky. Not emphasized then was that the government and Federal Reserve have to be very wary of the impact of their decisions on inflationary expectations. Those readers who have read Taleb's book "The Black Swan" will find several of Taleb's ideas here, and he is referenced several times, once incorrectly (p.43) - but the importance of uncertainty as contrasted to probabilistic risk turns out to be a central idea of Keynes.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Hickey on February 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Not surprisingly the recent world financial crisis has spawned a surge of books. Robert Skidelsky's book is more insightful than most. He is Professor Emeritus of political economy at the University of Warwick, England, and has previously written a three-volume biography of Keynes.

His book views the crisis through the spectacles of Keynesian economics. It manifests the author's considerable erudition in history of economics, and shows much refreshingly independent thought. Skidelsky's expressed agenda is the reform of economics and the teaching of economics.

Skidelsky maintains that economics has given a poor account of origins of the recent financial crisis, because there is something essentially incompatible between the economist's view of individual rationality and the systemic financial collapse. His chief argument is that underlying the escalating succession of recent financial crises there is a failure of economics to take uncertainty seriously and to cover up this neglect by means of sophisticated mathematics and statistics including econometrics.

Contrary to rationality in which all risks can be correctly priced such that financial markets are optimally self-regulating, economic choices are governed by conventional rather than rational expectations. Conventional expectations involve irreducible uncertainty with its "black swans" - bubbles inflated by positive feedback followed by collapse.

Skidelsky never references Nobel laureate economist and political scientist Herbert Simon. But his view of Keynes is in certain respects suggestive of Simon's thesis of bounded rationality.
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