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The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great… (1953)

by Robert L. Heilbroner

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2,584244,369 (3.92)9
The bestselling classic that examines the history of economic thought from Adam Smith to Karl Marx--"all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish" (The New York Times). The Worldly Philosophers not only enables us to see more deeply into our history but helps us better understand our own times. In this seventh edition, Robert L. Heilbroner provides a new theme that connects thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. The theme is the common focus of their highly varied ideas--namely, the search to understand how a capitalist society works. It is a focus never more needed than in this age of confusing economic headlines. In a bold new concluding chapter entitled "The End of the Worldly Philosophy?" Heilbroner reminds us that the word "end" refers to both the purpose and limits of economics. This chapter conveys a concern that today's increasingly "scientific" economics may overlook fundamental social and political issues that are central to economics. Thus, unlike its predecessors, this new edition provides not just an indispensable illumination of our past but a call to action for our future.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Uncritical and sometimes innacurate or at least tendecious account of a mixed selection of economist and fringe charaltans. Don't really see much value in this as it's all very superficial and willl not give you any grasp of the presented economists ideas. ( )
  Paul_S | Aug 2, 2021 |
An excellent survey of economic history and ideas organised around key economic thinkers. It is not a technical book and makes for great reading in general interest. ( )
  Joonsik | Apr 12, 2020 |
A text book on the lives of the great economists. Passably interesting, but contains little one would not have easily heard before.

Goes pretty light on the failure of economics over all and, basically, forever (so far). ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
An Excellent Book for anyone interested in Economics but put off by mathematics. Focuses mostly on the history of economic thought. Delivers balanced assessments of every figure, including Marx. The last chapter is particularly interesting because it stresses that economics can't be divorced from social concerns. ( )
  GigaClon | Mar 21, 2020 |
It has some great anecdotes on early economists, but ends with Schumpeter—far too soon. The scale is so broad that we only really learn about macroeconomics—never micro—and there is at least as much sociology or political theory as macroeconomics. Heilbroner's own economic judgements are often questionable, and his last chapter, summing up and suggesting a future for economics, is atrocious. It is also interesting how he manages to completely ignore some of today's major economic and political issues, e.g., inequality.

> It was said that he [Adam Smith] had brewed himself a beverage of bread and butter and pronounced it the worst cup of tea he had ever tasted.

> In contrast with Bastiat, who was drawn to the irrationalities of economic sophistry, or with Henry George, who saw the injustices of life cloaked with economic sanction, or with Hobson, who looked for hidden destructive tendencies in the impersonal processes of capitalist economics, Marshall was primarily interested in the self-adjusting, self-correcting nature of the economic world. As his most brilliant pupil, J. M. Keynes, would later write, he created "a whole Copernican system, in which all the elements of the economic universe are kept in their places by mutual counterpoise and interaction."

> If Marx's view was right, for example, and the proletariat was irreconcilably and diametrically opposed to the capitalist, what prevented the revolution from breaking out at once? Veblen provides an answer. The lower classes are not at swords' points with the upper; they are bound up with them by the intangible but steely bonds of common attitudes. The workers do not seek to displace their managers; they seek to emulate them. They themselves acquiesce in the general judgment that the work they do is somehow less "dignified" than the work of their masters, and their goal is not to rid themselves of a superior class but to climb up to it. In the theory of the leisure class lies the kernel of a theory of social stability.

> Planck turned to Keynes and told him that he had once considered going into economics himself. But he had decided against it—it was too hard. Keynes repeated the story with relish to a friend back at Cambridge. "Why, that’s odd," said the friend. "Bertrand Russell was telling me just the other day that he'd also thought about going into economics. But he decided it was too easy." ( )
  breic | Mar 17, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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To Adolph Lowe with deepest respect and to Joan with deepest love
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Since he came down from the trees, man has faced the problem of survival, not as an individual, but as a member of a social group.
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The bestselling classic that examines the history of economic thought from Adam Smith to Karl Marx--"all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish" (The New York Times). The Worldly Philosophers not only enables us to see more deeply into our history but helps us better understand our own times. In this seventh edition, Robert L. Heilbroner provides a new theme that connects thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. The theme is the common focus of their highly varied ideas--namely, the search to understand how a capitalist society works. It is a focus never more needed than in this age of confusing economic headlines. In a bold new concluding chapter entitled "The End of the Worldly Philosophy?" Heilbroner reminds us that the word "end" refers to both the purpose and limits of economics. This chapter conveys a concern that today's increasingly "scientific" economics may overlook fundamental social and political issues that are central to economics. Thus, unlike its predecessors, this new edition provides not just an indispensable illumination of our past but a call to action for our future.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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