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Keynes: The Return of the Master

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  514 ratings  ·  47 reviews
The ideas of John Maynard Keynes have never been more timely. No one has bettered Keynes's description of the psychology of investors during a financial crisis: ‘The practice of calmness and immobility, of certainty and security, suddenly breaks down. New fears and hopes will, without warning, take charge of human conduct… the market will be subject to waves of optimistic ...more
Hardcover, 221 pages
Published September 14th 2009 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2009)
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JMK: So, Milton, do you expect my theories to once again become the dominant paradigm in macroeconomics after this prolonged bout of market speed wobble?

MF: No, Mr. Keynes. I expect you to die.

Look, I'm not an economist. I don't really know jack shit about economics, and I cringe whenever I turn to any of my ill-informed musings upon the subject after I've initially committed them to (electronic) paper. I am certainly too ignorant about the details, the interrelations and interlacements, the cor
I have just finished this brilliant book by the historian Robert Skidelsky, biographer of Keynes. It will probably be my book of the year.

The book confirms for me that I made the right decision to leave professional economics many years ago: the intellectual pygmies obsessed with the maths and not the reality took over! Friedman and the Chicago School and even the Neo-Keynesians just don't get it: the uncertainty that is central to Keynes view of the world is not like insurable risk we have for
Keith Akers
This is a lucid and brilliant, if a bit technical, book on Keynes. You really have to put on your thinking cap but if you care about economics, you need to read this book. (And if you care about climate change and resource depletion and peak oil, you should care about economics.)

You may not pick up everything in the book on the first read, but Skidelsky is quite clear on Keynes' key insight. Turns out that the key to Keynes' economics is his distinction between risk (when we can calculate the od
Randal Samstag
This is a competent answer by Keynes's biographer to the question "What would Keynes have done?" in the aftermath of the 2008 crash and a response to the economic theories that have dominated the US and UK since the Reagan / Thatcher putsch. Such as pointing out the absurdities of "Rational Expectations," the "Efficient Market Theory," "Real Business Cycle Theory," and the like.

A quote about Keynes's view of uncertainty is apt: "Keynes argued that, faced with varying degrees of uncertainty, it
Sagar Jethani
Skidelsky's account is marred by his undisguised adulation of Keynes: the economist could do no wrong, in the author's estimation, and those areas where Keynes erred are explained away. In the introduction, Skidelsky criticizes economic historians for engaging in prosaic doublespeak instead of adopting Keynes' injunction to describe economic phenomena in clear, everyday language-- and then proceeds to engage in these same linguistic gymnastics for the duration of the memoir.

Ultimately, the geniu
Scholarly argument for a return to Keynesian economics

The modern recession casts doubt on many long-held economic beliefs, in particular, the validity of free markets. Unable to agree on causes or remedies, economists look on as politicians try various kinds of stimulus spending and corporate bailouts. Pundits call forth the ghost of John Maynard Keynes, often incorrectly labeled as a has-been socialist and tax-and-spend liberal. But Robert Skidelsky, Keynes’ biographer and a noted expert on the
Don't be fooled by the length of this volume. At less that 200 pages, it is packed with useful information and great insights. It is not a fast read (at least for people like me that don't read economics all the time) but it's a very entertaining one.

Skidelsky starts with a short explanation of the Financial Crisis. If you have been following the news you won't learn anything new here, but it helps to put the book in context. The rest is devoted to the life (very little) and thought (a lot) of
“The chief argument of this book has been that underlying the escalating succession of financial crises we have recently experienced is the failure of economics to take uncertainty seriously” (audio chapter 8, time 50:30).

Available as a seven-and-a-half-hour audio book from Audible.

This book seemed a welcome voice of analytical sanity in the face of berserk economic orthodoxy, but perhaps too technical, detailed, well-researched, and scholarly to be fully appreciated in audio book form. I unders
Nick Anderson
"There is nothing to fear but fear itself"

Going in, I thought it would be a discussion of the 2008 financial crisis and how Keynesian ideas were making a resurgence, and why. But rather it is an exploration of the ideas if the man himself. It is a book about ideas which asserts that the problem with the economic establishment is that they are beholden to an unrealistic view of behavior in an industrial capitalist society.

Keynes' worldview is a strict realism, that our ability to hold expectatio
Edward Wang
The author describes himself as an economically literate historian in preface. As tongue-in-cheek as it may be, I think it shows. Two sections of the book stand out and they are all history related. The economic history, that is.

In chapter 5, the economic performance of Bretton Woods system and Washington Consensus system is compared. In all likelihood this is not the first time anybody ever did such comparison but it is an absolute novelty to me nevertheless. I find it fascinating and rather co
Lucía Vijil Saybe
¿Regresará la corriente neokeynesiana? Encontrando que Keynes era más que solamente pleno empleo, demasiada incertidumbre y especulación para la toma de decisiones, separa el ahorro de la inversión a pesar de haberle dado significado al dinero como tal de utilidad. Trató de explicar las grandes depresiones que sus prolongaciones fueron más cortas y estables durante las teorías clásicas, agudizando el mismo Keynes las depresiones económicas jugando a la tasa de interés a largo plazo.
Es acertada,
Gabriel Pinkus
Skidelsky tends to think economic thought is a bit more important than I think it is (don't we all think that what we are interested in is more important than what it really is!), but I enjoyed this book as a basic intro to Mr. Keynes' life and thoughts.

Keynes' thoughts on risk, randomness, uncertainty, and probability seem like rougher versions of the teachings of Mr. Buffett, Ben Graham, Charlie Munger, and Taleb.

I've already read Essays in Persuasion, and after this I'm going to his Treatise
Scholarly argument for a return to Keynesian economics

The modern recession casts doubt on many long-held economic beliefs, in particular, the validity of free markets. Unable to agree on causes or remedies, economists look on as politicians try various kinds of stimulus spending and corporate bailouts. Pundits call forth the ghost of John Maynard Keynes, often incorrectly labeled as a has-been socialist and tax-and-spend liberal. But Robert Skidelsky, Keynes’ biographer and a noted expert on the
This is a biography of John Maynard Keynes, the man who revolutionized economics in the 1930's. His ideas helped shape much of American capitalism until the 1980's when classical economics had a resurgence. This book argues that, since the 2008 recession, Keynes' philosophies have been making a comeback. It discusses his life, his philosophy, his economics, and his politics, and considers them all in light of recent events.

It's an interesting book. It helped me understand the role uncertainty pl
Keynes was an atheist, but he was not a Humanist, at least not in the way I understand the term. Still, his theories are the closest I've read to what I would consider a Humanist economics, especially as regards his focus on increased leisure time and the end of capitalism and scarcity with the coming of abundance.

Humanists should gravitate towards (broadly speaking) Keynesian economics as opposed to the models proposed by the freshwater school or Hayek because the more advanced modeling, which
This is a short and accessible introduction to the economic and philosophical worldview of John Maynard Keynes, the 20th Century British economist whose ideas are suddenly back in vogue as governments seek to mop up the mess caused by overleveraged banks, easy credit, and speculators who didn't understand their own investment vehicles. Skidelsky also authored a three-part biography of Keynes, and he uses his familiarity with the man to detail the development of his ideas.

One of Skidelsky's main
"[H]e thought that economics should be intuitive, not counterintuitive: it should present the world in a language which most people understand." (xv)

"'The "sound" banker, alas! is not one who sees a danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional an orthodox way along with his fellows so that no one can really blame him.'" (quoting Keynes, 25)

"'The market will be subject to waves of optimistic and pessimistic sentiment, which are unreasoning, yet in a sense legi
This somewhat dry, but definitely pertinent, examination of what we can learn today from the master economist JM Keynes is well-worth a look by anyone interested in how the world got into this mess we find ourselves, and in what might be done to dig ourselves out. Many of the technical arguments went over my head in detail, but were described in layman's terms sufficiently well that I could follow the development of the main ideas. In fact, the fundamental thing that Skidelsky thinks Keynes woul ...more
Robert Skidelsky is John Maynard Keynes's most prominent biographer and advocate. His earlier biography of Keynes is outstanding, capturing the complicated his personal and intellectual life in a clear and compelling way. Keynes was a pro-capitalist who saw capitalism's flaws--a business cycle induced by waves of "animal spirits." To Keynes, government intervention was the key to capitalism's salvation, and his forceful advocacy of "fiscal policy" was a staple of the field when I was a graduate ...more
A much needed defense of Keynes. He is right and the critics are wrong. Period. You don't have to like the man or his self-promotion. His ideas were intuitive and required subsequent theorists to make rigorous. Read Dornbusch and Fischer to get the full treatment.
Rajesh Kurup
From the reviews, I was expecting a summary on how Keynesian economics has been holding sway in the US since the financial crisis. However, Skidelsky's book is much more. He has traced Keynes's life, policies and philosophies with counterpoints to Classical and neo-Classical economics...(deep breath) forays into neo-Keynesian thought...and discourses on implementation errors of Keynesian followeres. Finally in the last 10-20 pages he gets into the post crisis discussion.

In other words, way more
Mark Ashkowski
Fascinating, clear and illuminating account of why Keynesianism still matters - indeed matters more now than ever before. Worth a read for a counter-narrative to austerity.
Keynes has been misappropriated by many, even more so over the last few years. Skidelsky is the pre-eminent authority on him. A good read, both as an introduction to Keynes' thinking and on the importance of economics going back to its roots, ie political economy, answering questions about the aspirations of a society, fair distribution etc. As opposed to having GDP as the alter before which all should bow down. Keynes was insistent that uncertainty was just that, and hence could not be modelled ...more
Satinder Hawkins
Learned a lot and I have a greater respect for the idea of economics as a social science philosophy rather than as an applied mathematics (which I think is very connected to the Great Recession).
Paul Hinman
Not entirely sure who the intended audience of this book is. It's a bit too technical for most casual readers, but fails to really go in-depth either. It is not really an overview of Keynesian thought, nor is it an application of Keynes type policy to address the current issues. Rather the author seems to share his distaste for the neo-classical economics (and post-keynesians) of the past 30 years and how they have failed to live up to the level of validity he would place on economic policy had ...more
This is an overview of Keynes thought –his economic, political and moral thought– motivated by the current financial crisis. Skidelsky considers that the financial crisis is also –and fundamentally– a crisis of the economics profession, and it is a deep one. He points out the causes of both crises and what Keynes can teach us to overcome them. He stresses the role of the concept of uncertainty, which is central to Keynes' thought, and whose false equalization with the concept of risk is at the c ...more
Sandy Sopko
Mar 18, 2012 Sandy Sopko marked it as to-read
So far, I have finished the "Anatomy of the Crisis" -- this brought to mind the online chat in one of my masters classes (in 2007) regarding using homeownership programs for borrowers who would normally have been excluded as bad risks to further social justice objectives -- "Rescue Operations" and "Blame Games" sections, followed by an interesting chapter on "The Present State of Economics" -- all of which underscores the dire urgency of returning to reality from a la-la land where people behave ...more
Scott Ford
Skidelsky writes, "Economics should abandon the quest for uniting the whole of theory under the umbrella of rational expectations, and should recognize that different knoweldge assumptions are appropriate for different kinds of activity" (p 189). The possibility of integrating experience and theory implied by language of this nature is an aspect of this book I greatly appreciated. Even-handed, level-headed, intelligent, and well-written.
A very nice succint treatment of why Keynes may be the key public policy figure of the first decade of the 21st century. Skidelsky is THE Keynes expert and brings a nicely nuanced hand to the question of what can a man dead for 60 years tell us about the economic conundrum we are in...turns out not much in specifics but a great deal in approach. I am especially struck by the observation to approach economies from a moral perspective...
Oliver Bateman
An excellent short introduction to Keynesian economics (by a historian, no less!) as well as a cogent argument for their continued usefulness. The book is too technical at some points and too vague at others, but such failings are to be expected from a work of this sort. The alternative, of course, is to read Keynes' own writings--but who has time for that, what with a fall lineup like the one that ABC has put together?
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Lord Skidelsky is 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 Prize for International Relations. He is the author of the The World After Communism (1995) (American ed ...more
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“If only one person were perfectly informed there could never be a general crisis. But the only perfectly informed person is God, and he does not play the stock market.” 9 likes
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