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Economics in Perspective: A Critical History Hardcover – October, 1987

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his 27th book, Harvard economist Galbraith (The Affluent Society, The Anatomy of Power) chronicles the thought and literature of economics from Aristotle's interest-free lending ethic up to and beyond the 1936 deficit-financing manifesto of John Maynard Keynes. Galbraith compares the latter, in "revolutionary" importance to Karl Marx (Das Capital, 1867) and Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations, 1776). In the author's "parade of personalities," some are seen as sonorous, others tragi-comic, as slavery and cottage industries recede before mercantile power in Venice and Amsterdam; colonization with its gold and silver to finance bigger European wars; and the still-baffling corporate and governmental complexities of the industrial revolution. No agreement on economic principles, if any, ever has existed, Galbraith shows, although "the great truisms of economics . . . . are evident for all to see."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Another classic by Galbraith. In this volume he charts the evolution of economic ideas from Greek and Roman times, demonstrating the key interaction between the economic environment and economic ideas. Throughout, he concentrates on the major economic questions of what determines the selling price of a good or service and what is the proper distribution of income. Galbraith recounts this story wittily and well. Part biography, part history, part economic theory, this book belongs on the shelf with Robert L. Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers as an introduction to the history of economic thought. Most highly recommended. Richard C. Schiming, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T); First Edition edition (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395355729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395355725
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,961,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Scarbro on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Galbraith presents an amusing, insightful and slightly opinionated view of the history of economic thought. Conservatives may dislike his occasional goring of their sacred cows, such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. Particularly Smith, one of the most commonly cited experts by those who have never read his works and have only a limited perspective on economics. Several quotes from the writings of Adam Smith are used to illustrate that he was no believer in the kind of free market economics touted as his legacy. Liberals are likely to enjoy the mild but entertaining debunking of these prophets of the religion of laissez faire economics. Aside from the asides, the book is an even-handed overview of the foundations of modern economics. It provides learned insight into the major figures of economics and a few minor ones. A clear perspective on the theoretical and often shaky underpinnings of the sometimes dogmatically supported theories underlying economics is presented in historic context.
I read this book immediately after reading Robert Heilbroner's "The Worldly Philosophers", generally considered to be the classic of this genre. The Heilbroner work provides more historic but less philosophic context for the theories of the primary figures in economics. Overall, the Galbraith book is more thoroughly researched and thought provoking.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is very interesting. Mr. Galbraith reports that history of Economics was very different in U.S.A. because of unexplored frontiers and free land. Also he says that Welfare economics doesnot become irrelevant due to the policy of free trade and balanced budgets. He also reports that competition in industries is a rare occurence due to their tendency of concentration. He has due regard for economists like Milton Friedman although he is evidently admirer of Keynes. Being witness of economic history for three quarters of the twentieth century his observations carry the merit of truth and wisdom. A very interesting book indeed.
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Format: Paperback
This book provided a historical and philosophical context for almost all of the eclectic claims about economics that I have encountered. I greatly appreciated Galbraith's humor and skeptical empiricism. I recommend this book to anyone, like me, without formal training in Economics who wants an overview of economic history, or who wants to understand more of today's debates on the financial and economic calamity.

Grahme Fischer
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Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of Mr. Galbraith's work for over 12 years. I stumbled across his work when I was completing a paper that had more to do with a social topic rather than economics. I find Mr. Galbraith to be both the devil's advocate, the objective ear, and the voice of clarified reason all at once. I like the historic approach he takes in this perspective. Without history and the scaffolding of information, it makes it difficult for one to understand the newness of individual economic fads. Each generation tends to think everything as we know it has always been this way. It is important to understand how human growth and ingenuity helps to shape and reshape all ideas, and I like his attention to the intangible of 'ethics'.
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Format: Paperback
Economists like Galbraith are laughable. Their economic ideas are nothing more than fads, unlike Adam Smith's classical economic philosophy - a model that seems to gain more credence as the years pass, not less. Near the end of the book Galbraith touts Japan's economy as one the U.S. should more closely emulate. I doubt he would write so foolishly had he penned this book more recently. As a history of economic thought, this book was merely adequate.
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