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Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,461 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Tomas Sedlacek has shaken the study of economics as few ever have. Named one of the "Young Guns" and one of the "five hot minds in economics" by the Yale Economic Review, he serves on the National Economic Council in Prague, where his provocative writing has achieved bestseller status. How has he done it? By arguing a simple, almost heretical proposition: economics is ulti ...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published by oxford university press (first published 2009)
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-humanities

A painstakingly researched new approach to assessing and shaping economic policy with visionary ideas and an extreme end.

It should be noted in advance that, in contrast to some popular science books that are designed with a focus on easier accessibility, the book has some dry text passages. Including what stands between the histories and religious narratives, namely the interpretations and explanations.

The first two-thirds of the book are primarily modeled after the citation of a histor
Though I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, Sedlacek's book left me with many things to consider. I do think he's correct in his main argument, that the study of economics has become too focused on econometrics to its detriment. A return to a more philosophical, ethical approach might be of use. And I also found his comments on consumer culture to be profound. Can we reach a 'bliss point' by buying things or raising our income? Or can myths and other old views of economics have something ...more
Adam Shields
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Short review: This is one of the best economic books I have read. It is a wide ranging book about the purpose and history of economics. The first half is about how economics have been understood by looking at ancient historical documents (Epic of Gilgamesh, Old Testament, New Testament, various Greek philosophers). Then it moves to how early economics viewed economics. The last section is about the limits of economics and a call for economics to move away from mathematics determinism and to a re ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
If you want a short textbook on philosophy, this is for you. Don’t expect much economics though.
One of very few things I’ve learnt from this book is that the author is well-read. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it readable. The quotations that amaze you at first begin to feel annoying as you progress and make you think ok, we have heard this a thousand times, do you have an idea of your own? He has indeed, in the end, but nothing more than sheer common sense. Spoiler: overconsumption is bad.
Tomáš Daněk
Mar 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
1) Economy is not a real (exact) science.
2) Money is not everything.
Wow, big deal.
Save yourself time and money and read Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Definitely an erudite book on many levels... but sort of boring in other ways. It would be perfect as a series of talks belonging to some "humanities festival" for a liberal arts college, or an undergraduate course that is aimed at giving students a chance to do close reading of major western texts focused on a single theme (economics).

Which is another way of saying that I think plenty of people will enjoy this book, but it wasn't really what I was hoping for; I ended up mostly skimming it. I do
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
I heard Sedlacek had problems to submit his PhD thesis which he then published (reworked) in a book form.
I initially thought this is just another example how wretched current economics is, but in fact I tend to agree now - at best this belongs to the literature department.

The book is roughly split into 2 parts. The first part is a tour of western literary cannon (well small part of it - Gilgamesh, Bible, bit of jewish tradition, scholastics...) ending with Adam Smith. Sedlacek provides literary
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Although the title contains the word economics, the book is more a concentrated history of philosophy, human culture, and civilisation. As the reader learns at the end of this book, Sedlacek's treatise is meant as a plea for refocusing on normative economics than the mathematics dominated positive economics of today.

Despite that the text often lacks drawing conclusions and does not explain how the risen questions and topics apply to economics.

Readers should have basic knowledge in macro economic
Jacek Bartczak
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It isn't a book which gives practical skills - it rather broadens the perspective on things which belong to the science of economy. Some economic patterns appeared in the literature (Bible, Epic of Gilgamesh) thousands of years ago - long before the economy was treated as a science discipline. Economic patterns and human behavior are mixed up very often so finding those patterns isn't difficult - economic rules may be applied in many places.

You can also treat this book as a summary of the econo
Mike Peleah
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The guy drives me crazy trying to persuade that gender equality is much higher at distant districts of that (quite patriarchal) country, than in capital. The best argument he uses “econometrics shows this, and you know, math doesn’t lie”. When we run down devils in details, it turned out that the guy used share if girls among higher education students as a metrics of gender equality. In distant districts higher education facilities are limited to medical and pedagogical ones, overpopulated by gi ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Seth by: Adam Shields
This is a difficult book to classify, and thus to review. It's not a book of economics, but rather about economics, particularly the modern focus on mathematics to the exclusion of ethics. It's pretty abstract and philosophical. I almost gave up a number of times in the first 150 pages, as I slogged through Sedlacek picking out and commenting on the economic bread crumbs found in the most ancient of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, followed by Greek thought, Stoicism, historic Christianity, an ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very intellectual and informative Book, but his style of writing is pleasant . Sedlacek manages to explain difficult topics in comprehensive manner, so that everyone could understand it even, if one doesn't know much about economy. I particularly liked the fact that he criticized the domination of mathematics in the economy and regret the lack and disregard of other subjects like philosophy, history, ethnology, etc.
He suggest to change some of our habits (egoism, to achieve fame and profit, t
Birdbath Birdbath
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this book googling "economics of good" so I was primed to enjoy it and was in the mood. It delivered. The author meandered a bit but in the end I was left full and satisfied. Do read it. I found it free online. ...more
Lars Sanders
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
everyone whit an opinion about the current economic crisis should study this and think again
Moses Hetfield
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Economics or humanities students; policy-makers
I wasn't expecting much from this book, but it really blew me away, changing the way I understood economics while articulating many of the qualms I had with the field. Sedláček is a leading economist in the Czech Republic who argues for the need to ground economics in the humanities. Sedláček's "meta-economics" examines the narratives, assumptions, and values that underlie the supposedly objective/rational/scientific discipline of mainstream economics. Economics of Good and Evil includes chapter ...more
Vladimir Baydin
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You will find this book controversial at the very least. Sometimes, it’s illogical, repetitive, and purely structured.
Still, I highly recommend to read this book for its anti-mainstream spirit. The author has brought brilliant questions everyone should ask him/herself once in a while.
Ffion Wyn
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will confess that i didn't really read this from cover to cover but I enjoyed dipping in and out
Capitalism is messed up man....
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good overview of economic history and history itself. This book bringing more questions and also giving ways where can be founded answers
David Shelton
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty good book but it didn't quite get to the level I was hoping. The main premise is that the field of economics has become too dependent on math and data and has become disconnected from other fields such as moral philosophy and theology. In other words, it's become to disconnected from real life. The author spends the first half of the book showing how people in the past saw economics through these very different lenses. The author then uses these sources to show how modern day e ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Economics of Good and Evil is certainly different. Despite its title, one won't find any fomulas, models, graphs or statistics inside of its covers. It discusses current (messy) state of the world economy but it doesn't offer any solutions. No easy steps to follow to become super-successful or 5 worst actions to avoid in your life if you want to become healthy and happy.

The first part argues that economics is more than just mathematics. It evolved from philosophy, ethics and other "soft" discipl
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this book when I visited Austria earlier last year, and enjoyed the read during the holidays. It's a relatively light, philosophical, and easy read (with a good intro by Vaclav), which hence makes it a good holiday read. Borderline erudite.

Basically, Sedlacek makes the case for the role of philosophy, religion, history, and ethics, and also explores the intersections of these tenets in creating/establishing stories and the role of stories behind Economics, theories, and decision making.
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I found this the most interesting book I've read for a long time. Another reviewer called it boring - I suppose it depends on your interests but I didn't find it boring, I couldn't put it down.

First of all, let me admit that I have little to no knowledge of economic theory, historical or otherwise. I knew a brief bit about Adam Smith but that was my limit. I don't really feel able to critique the economic content other than to say that I agreed with his observations on GDP and growth capitalism
Filip Růžička
Disilusioned by secondary school classes on economy and seeing the actual term thrown around into vastly different contexts by vastly different people, seemingly threading through all aspects of our civilization kind of like a religion, kind of like a superset of expert knowledge and kind of like a natural force, my longing for a high-level introduction to economic principles and their contextualization grew ever stronger, which led me to this book.

The feelings which remain with me after finishi
Simon Omnibus
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is capitalism?

Pure magic. The social order where all individuals and organisations do completely selfish things (seek profits) but without their intention that turns into social benefits (GDP).

What supernatural force can provide this unbelievable transformation?

The invisible hand of market.

Who said that?

Adam Smith, of course. (If you ever visited a course in economics you have heard this "truth" at least 10 times. If you went through whole university process multiply the figure by hundred
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book that you need a bit of knowledge in philosophy, psychology, religions and economics to fully savour it.

I was thinking it is a book mainly about economics, but I think it is more about philosophy, which is great because I like interdisciplinary topics.

The book is getting better every moment you read, so read to the end. It begins a bit slow with a journey through mythology and religions and afterwards switches to philosophy and the ending is great when all the reading you've do
Barry Linetsky
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Professor Sedlacek sees economics as a social science and argues that economics rests on a more fundamental foundation of ethics (good and evil). He shows how this view has evolved throughout history, reaching its pinnacle with Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. The book is very detailed and well written, and sets a foundation for 'humanomics', the recognition that ethics and economics go hand in glove. ...more
Jos dujardin
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economic-history
What a refreshing and revealing read for me, a master in Economics and MBA, vintage 1986. This is to me a new perspective to see economic theory. Now I realize with what economic ideology I have been educated. It is a bit a long read, I am sure that the author can summarize his thoughts in a more succint way.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, philosophy
I thought this was a very interesting book on economics. It deals more with the philosophy of economics rather than the mathmatics and it brought up some really interesting and thought provoking points.
Steve Gathje
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. Views economics through a moral/social lens using history as the guide. Neither liberal nor conservative. Rather, profoundly rooted in the nature of human beings and are moral udnerpinnings.
Melanie Valencia
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A truly fantastic historic overview of economics and its ontological development. A critique on the over- accumulation of society and over - mathematization of the field.
'We have exchanged too much wisdom for exactness, too much humanity for mathematization' Sedlacek.
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Tomáš Sedláček is a Czech economist and university lecturer. He is the Chief Macroeconomic Strategist at ČSOB (a Czech national bank), a member of a group Narrative of Europe commissioned by Manuel Barroso and Council Member of World Economic Forum focused on New Economic Thinking. He is a former member of the National Economic Council of the Czech Republic and an economic advisor to former Presid ...more

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