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Grand Pursuit: A History of Economic Genius

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  728 ratings  ·  136 reviews
From the bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind, a brilliant new approach to the story of modern economics and to understanding how we got into today's financial mess. As the twenty-first century faces new and ever more daunting economic obstacles, Sylvia Nasar tells the story of how our financial world came to function as it does today, and how a handful of men and women...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published July 19th 2012 by Fourth Estate (first published September 1st 2011)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 22, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Intellectual and Socio-Economic History
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Suzanne Dobbins
In her preface, Nasar describes Grand Pursuit as “the story of an idea that was born in the Golden Age before World War I,” the grand pursuit of “turning economics into an instrument of mastery” that could drive prosperity, rather than the “dismal science” that cautioned against government or even voluntary social intervention. Although she gives a glimmer of the ideas of such founders of classical economics as Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, the focus is on t...more
Alex MacMillan
"No. The master narrative of High Liberalism is mistaken factually. ... A political philosophy based on fairy tales about what happened in history or what humans are like is going to be less than useless. It is going to be mischievous. ... Anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adve...more
Marks54
This is a popularly oriented book on economic history - in particular by way of a historical look at economists and their times. The premise is to look at the thinkers who developed our ways of thinking about how economic thinking can be used to improve the lots of people through intentional activity -- through intentional economics policies. The immediate mode of discussion is to focus on particular thinkers and their times and from that construct a larger narrative of the story of economic pol...more
Christian Dibblee
This is a tough book to review. On the one hand, I immensely enjoyed learning about the various thinkers that Nasar brings to that table. I had vague recollections of Alfred Marshall and Paul Samuelson from my college classes, but truly knew nothing about Joseph Schumpeter coming in. Nasar certainly helps provide an accessible entry into the economic history world.

That said, this is a book that was almost doomed to meet its expectations or thesis. The economic thinkers, while all important (thou...more
Mal Warwick
Economics Through the Lens of Personality: An Accessible History

It’s well known that Thomas Carlyle, a 19th century British historian, is credited with first calling economics “the dismal science.” What’s much less widely appreciated is that this derogatory label was well justified when he set the phrase down on paper in 1849.

Until well into the 19th century, as Sylvia Nasar shows so clearly in Grand Pursuit, economics was, indeed, dismal. The gloomy predictions of Thomas Malthus dominated discu...more
Suzanne
In the era of huge national deficits and concerns over a balanced budget, Ms. Nasar’s book couldn’t be more timely. Grand Pursuit, is the story of the science of economics – and how the human race has benefited (and suffered) as a result of the beliefs concerning government actions and its effects.

The book opens in the year 1842 in Charles Dickens’ London. Dickens himself set out to awaken men’s souls to the hardships of the working class in the hopes that something would be done to ease their p...more
Jean
Sylvia Nasar has written a brilliant and very interesting book about economic history from Marx to the present. A Grand Pursuit is about two concerns (1) what do we do with the poor? and (2) how do we deal with the ups and downs of the economy that cause such disruption in the world? Both topics are front and center in our present situation.

Nasar deals with these questions by telling about people, like Marx, Beatrice (NOT Beatrix) Potter Webb, Schumpeter, Hayek, and most especially Maynard Keyn...more
linhtalinhtinh
My friend is absolutely right on many problems of this book - the lack of real analysis, pretty obvious and horrible biases, etc. "...the author just skims through the whole thing, telling us what the general population chose to remember about each economist." But I guess her complaint here is exactly the point of the book. It simply wants to introduce what the author thinks we (general pop) would want to know about these men and women. And I decide to continue reading because of the same reason...more
Austin
This history of economics takes the structure of serial and overlapping biographies of the most important thinkers since the mid-1800s. She starts with Dickens' descriptions of Victorian London, including the Malthusian view that 9/10ths of the population would indefinitely live in abject poverty. The book is broken into three sections - leading up to world war one, the two world wars and the period since world war 2. The strongest section of the book, by far, is the middle one. She focuses on K...more
Rick
This is hands down the finest book on the actual study of economics that I have ever read. It is a layperson's book. It puts things in perspective. It lays the groundwork to understand when people go on about Keynesianism and Milton Friedman and Monetism and explains who thought up what and who's done what in whose name and lays out the basic principles of everyone and does a wonderful jo of justifying the actual study of economics - important, since there are a lot of haters and Economists have...more
Olethros
-De muchas ideas, que principalmente explican las cosas en retrospectiva, y de muchas voluntades.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. Desde mediados del siglo XIX hasta comienzos del XXI, repaso de la vida e ideas, económicas principalmente (pero también muy sociales, políticas e incluso personales), de varios de los referentes y líderes de opinión de sus respectivas épocas, como Dickens, Marx, Keynes, Schumpeter, Hayek y Friedman entre otros, con la intención de mostrar la evolución del pensamien...more
Annita
A book on economics which begins with Jane Austen and Charles Dickens has this reader's attention. Page 64 and I'm already engrossed in familiar characters' perspectives as each views economic and political issues from withing the historical time and environment each lived. At page 64, the reader is introduced to the influences and circumstances of Dickens and Carlyle, Engel and Marx,Malthus, Kant, Mayhew, John Stewart Mill, Sidgwick, Keynes and Marshall.
Eric
I really enjoyed the story - told in a way that leaves room for error on all sides. But I like it most for introducing me to Amartya Sen, whose work I must now seek out.

Several reviewers felt let down by Nasar's treatment being too broad, or not supplying new answers. And I think that is the point of Nasar's work - the pursuit of the grand remains a pursuit. Human motivations are far more complex than what will lend themselves to economists, planners, bureaucrats, and politicians meddling in det...more
alana Semuels
I reviewed this book for the LA Times. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/...
Maria Podolyak
Книгу будет приятно читать жителям Советского Союза, нестандартный для нас взгяд на историю 19-20 века. Книгу можно разбирать на цитаты.
Umrbek Allakulov
From the onset, I looked forward to reading this book by Sylvia Nasar - the author of A Beautiful Mind, a biography of Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr - and who also happens to be the daughter of a German mother and Uzbek father. Having been born Uzbekistan and trained in economics in Germany, I might have possibly been predisposed to take delight in perusing the treatise. If so, I was not disappointed.

The author does a good job of depicting the history of e...more
Wendi
Grand Pursuit
By Sylvia Nasar
Published by Simon & Schuster

Grand Pursuit is an exploration of economic scholars, ideology and development over the past two century’s. Drawing upon the great political, economic and literary thinkers of the times, Nasar exposes the gritty realities of industrialized nations and the theories on wealth, poverty and unemployment that continue to confound our world leaders today.

Thoroughly researched and expansive in its coverage, Nasar provides biographical and pri...more
John  Bellamy
This may not be a perfect book but it certainly is a fascinating and readable one. For if not quite equal to the sum of its wonderful parts, it nonetheless is a compelling survey of some of the most influential economic thinkers of the last two centuries. In Nasar’s capable hands, it is, indeed, a grand pursuit, as she takes readers on a cook’s tour of economic theory from the age of Malthus to the brink of the future. Along the way she offers incisive sketches of both the Big Names (Marx, Keyne...more
Georges
Uma obra bastante interessante sobre os grandes nomes da economia mundial a partir de 1800 até 1970, com um "bônus track" sobre Amartya Sen. Os 100 anos entre 1850 e 1950 se mostram especialmente importantes para entender o desenvolvimento da ciência econômica e seus protagonistas. É um período da história marcado por crises e guerras que na maioria das vezes ganham mais relevo nas narrativas do período do que a evolução do pensamento econômico que se deu simultaneamente. Ao contrário de hoje em...more
UChicagoLaw
"This beautifully written book deals with economic thought about macroeconomics since the mid-1800s through the lives of the great economists. The book also includes non-economists such as Beatrice Potter Webb, who is generally regarded as the inventor of the British welfare state (with encouragement from a then-young politician named Winston Churchill). I particularly liked the book because I learned a great deal about two University of Chicago faculty members whom I came to know well as a youn...more
Amr
Oh My God, this is a long book that is not easy to read.
I mostly read non-fiction and I enjoy political and historical books with boring numbers, dates and statistics, but this is something else.
I'm not really familiar with the history of economics. I know a bit about economics, enough to get me through the publicly available details of the 2008 crisis. However, this is about history as much as it is about economics. It's how all these principles came to be. It's the countries, houses, families,...more
Paul Frandano
Uneven but agreeable reading, a kind of disjointed one-thing-I-thought-to-mention-after-another narrative that nevertheless focuses on the big shots, Marshall, Fisher, Schumpeter, and Keynes - sometimes in a very forced way - as a structural spine, with several species of "seven dwarfs" to flesh out the diversity profile. The inclusion of Joan Robinson and Amartya Sen didn't do much for me and weakened the final quarter of the story in a kind of gradual, needless dissipation of the book's eponym...more
Ray
Once upon a time there was Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers. Many students were exposed to a selection of famous economists in an exceptionally clear and entertaining not-too-long book. Now, however, many of the shortcomings of Heilbroner's work are remedied by Nasar's new story of the
evolution of economic thought. Nasar explains the theoretical contributions of most of the acknowledged leaders of economics but the elaboration of the historical setting in which the writers developed and def...more
Malak
Sylvia Nasar est connue pour son habilité de bien narrer les histoires et elle n'a pas changé. Ce livre, malgré son sujet assez difficile à digérer, contient une continuité fluide qui permet au lecteur d'y accrocher. Personnellement, j'ai beaucoup aimé lire sur certains personnages plus que d'autres, spécialement sur les personnages du sexe féminine comme Beatrice Webb et Joan Robinson. J'ai remarqué chez ces deux femmes une tendance vers la dépression lorsque les choses ne vont pas à leur guise...more
Chi Pham
I skimmed the whole book after carefully reading the first chapter. The book starts with good premises, but I cannot comprehend what the author is trying to do. History of economic thought? No, the author just skims through the whole thing, telling us what the general population chose to remember about each economist. Biography (history) of economic genius? No, because the author only picks selectively the instances that demonstrate the little economic thought that she provides. Account of conte...more
Patty
I KNOW! Surprising title for me, eh? But this was a really interesting book! It tells the story of the creation of the field of economics from its inception but in a way that is easy to understand and a real delight to read. REALLY! I wouldn't lie to you. Now economics is not what I would call my strong suit by any stretch of the imagination but with the state of the economy lately I figured it might behoove me to relearn what I was taught oh so very long ago in college. If this book had been my...more
Naum
No way, I thought, when I saw this book on a library shelf, that I would be interested in this "history of economic genius". While the field of economics interests me, the vagaries of famed economists not so much.

But I was captivated from the start, from the opening chapter on Dickens and Malthus, and the inception of economic thinking, which today, we all take for granted (even if we equate all|most economists as indistinguishable from nincompoops). Nasar references *A Farewell to Alms* by Greg...more
Converse

Sylvia Nasar starts her history of economic thought unconventionally, with British author Charles Dickens and his story A Christmas Carol. Her point is that Britain in the 1840s is one of the earliest times and places in which the extreme poverty of the majority no longer seemed to be permanent. Earlier economists, such as Thomas Malthus, thought that the poverty of the majority was inevitable, as birth rates adjusted to economic circumstances to keep the majority very poor.

Nasar is to be co

...more
Domenico Composto-Hart
This is essential reading for those interested in economic history. The book spans the development of economic thought from the mid-1800s up to the post World War II era. It is a great book that would work well as a lead up to Daniel Yergin's book The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy, which covers the development of economic thought throughout the 20th century.

What I found most fascinating about this work was what it revealed regarding the personal lives of Karl Marx, Friedri...more
karl
I read Ms. Nasar’s book in 30-minute chunks (e.g., on stationary bike) over about 8 months. Although the last half of it (covering about 1930 to 2000) I read in just a month, because I found it more interesting. The book reminded me of a suggested supplemental reading for a graduate economics course in the history of economic thought. I did not find it a fun read. However, I was proud of myself for finishing it! It provides a refresher on the academic and political contributions of some well kno...more
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Sylvia Nasar was born to a German mother and Uzbek father. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1951, then moved to Ankara, Turkey in 1960. She graduated from Antioch College in 1970, and earned a masters' degree in economics at New York University in 1976. For four years, she did research with Nobel Laureate Wassily Leontief. She is currently the Knight Chair in Business Journalism at Co...more
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