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The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, Seventh Edition Paperback – August 10, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 7th Revised edition (August 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068486214X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A brilliant achievement.”
John Kenneth Galbraith

“If ever a book answered a crying need, this one does. Here is all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish by a man who writes with immense vigor and skill, who has a rare gift for simplifying complexities.”
The New York Times

“Robert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers is a living classic, both because he makes us see that the ideas of the great economists remain fresh and important for our times and because his own brilliant writing forces us to reach out into the future.”
—Leonard Silk

The Worldly Philosophers, quite simply put, is a classic....None of us can know where we are coming from unless we know the sources of the great ideas that permeate our thinking. The Worldly Philosophers gives us a clear understanding of the economic ideas that influence us whether or not we have read the great economic thinkers.”
—Lester Thurow

“Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith inspired several readers to become Nobel laureates in biology. Robert Heilbroner's new edition of The Worldly Philosophers will inspire a new generation of economists.”
—Paul Samuelson

About the Author

Robert L. Heilbroner is the Norman Thomas Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at The New School for Social Research and is the author of more than twenty books. He lives in New York City.

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.

Customer Reviews

Everyone that I know who has read the book has praised it.
J. Sweeney
I have a bit of background in basic economics and read this book hoping to learn more about the great economic thinkers, their theories, and economic history.
L. Rettig
Great names such as John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman are not equated by Heilbroner to the above mentioned airheads such as Charles Fourier.
Leonardo Alves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 166 people found the following review helpful By Dan E. Ross on January 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" back in college my senior year, all 1200+ pages of it. I've read parts of Communist Manifesto and Capital by Karl Marx and some Joseph Schumpeter. I loved it all (especially Smith and Schumpeter) but it was BRUTAL as the dialects in those days varied so much from today's.
If you are new to economics or want summaries/insights into the greatest economists in history this book is for you. Mr. Heilbroner's book, the Worldly Philosophers, is the best books on economics I have come across and I have endured graduate level economic courses, both macro and micro (along with the undergraduate courses.) This book provides readers with a nice summary and analysis of the great Economic thinkers from Adam Smith, Karl Marx, David Ricardo, Mill, Keynes, Schumpeter and others. I found the book to be very general and not extremely analytical/scholarly if you will.
The summaries of each man's economic concepts and life/times in which he lived were extremely accurate. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the author tries to explain the multi-disciplined nature of economics and how it is a combination of sociology, history, political science and philosophy all rapped into one. If you look at the London School of Economics graduate program you will find over 30 unique Masters Programs in economics as the field is increasingly becoming applied and specialized into different parts of the society. Mr. Heilbroner asks a question at the end such as "are we seeing the end of Worldly Philosophers?" as the field is increasingly getting more specialized and very few economists are tackling the "big picture" anymore and how the various components of an economy (land, labor and capital) are intertwined with each other.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I approached this book with the thought that "Ok, ok, I know I've got to get around to reading more about these guys sooner or later" attitude. What a fortunate find, and great way to begin!
The author takes a subject (economics) that is often beyond dry and makes it both entertaining and educational, with lots of surprises thrown in. Every time I thought I had caught the author in a mistake or an oversight (Ah ha! Now I've got you!) he'd cover my questions or thoughts within the next couple of pages or so. The author earned my confidence again and again. I found him to be a reliable guide through treacherous waters.
There's a lot of good history in this book. He tackles each major economic philosopher (and others), makes the man come alive in the context of his times, and relates his thinking to our own time by putting their ideas to the test of subsequent history. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Smith and Keynes.
The author, like any good educator, doesn't give you everything. He gives you lots of food for thought. I also found the author to be thoughtful and unpretentious. I plan to read more books by him.
My copy also contained a very nice description of suggested readings.
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214 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Eiji Hirai on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read both Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner and New Ideas From Dead Economists, by Todd Buchholz. I wanted to get a good rounded layperson introduction to great economists in the past.
However, I found Heilbroner's book to be neither useful to the layperson nor to people who have a good background in Economics. Let me explain.
Heilbroner spends a LOT of time in awe of these economists and spends a great deal of time explaining how great they were, how revolutionary, how brilliant, how much of a genius, how wonderful these men were, ad nauseum. Ok, I get the point. Unfortunately, all this fawning and fan worship clouds what should've been the more interesting and more important part of the book, which are the central economic ideas put forward by these thinkers. In fact, there's a lot of emphasis on putting their economic ideas in perspective to the prevailing moral philosophical thought at the time.
It's almost as if this books is written for people who have already taken Economics 101, and know all the basic economic principles and can nod, "yes, uh huh, I didn't know those personality quirks or their moral philosophical outlook about these economists - good to know. By the way, it's great that he didn't go over his economic ideas since I already know them."
For example, the entire chapter devoted to David Ricardo fails to mention the theory of Comparative Advantage anywhere in the chapter. Isn't that a MAJOR omission? That's just one example. Omissions such as this are everywhere.
So the layperson is stuck getting a vague feeling that these people were wonderful people, but that a little less fuzzy on their ecnomic ideas.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Phillips on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
In my 20th Century American Literature class we recently read Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." In conjunction with the book we watched "Roger and Me," a film by Michael Moore. The film chronicles the social collapse of Flint, Michigan, after General Motors closed several factories there in the late 1980's during a time of record profits. How ironic, then, that I should find myself reading a history of economics during a three-hour layover in an airport in Detroit, the Motor City.
I picked up a copy of Robert L. Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers for next to nothing at the Salvation Army. The cover suggests a retail price of a mere $..., a more significant sum back in 1961 when the revised edition was published. Heilbroner's book, however, is not weakened at all by its age. He sets out not to explicate his contemporary economy, but rather to recount the history of political economy by examining its greatest thinkers, beginning with Adam Smith and ending with John Maynard Keynes.
Before any of the biographies, however, there is a wonderful section on the origins of the market system. Heilbroner explains that until the 18th century, capitalism and the market system did not exist as we know them today. The lack of national unity and universal weights, measures, and currency made trade cumbersome. In addition to these impediments, the idea of seeking personal profit was not socially or religiously condoned. (Heilbroner cites an amusing case before the Boston courts in 1644 where a man was charged with making a "sixpence profit on the shilling, an outrageous gain.") Moreover, the economic concepts of Land, Labor, and Capital did not exist. Things began to shift radically in the 18th century, however, spurred along by the Industrial Revolution.
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