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Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought [Paperback]

Agnar Sandmo
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Jan 2011 0691148422 978-0691148427

In clear, nontechnical language, this introductory textbook describes the history of economic thought, focusing on the development of economic theory from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations to the late twentieth century.

The text concentrates on the most important figures in the history of economics, from Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx in the classical period to John Maynard Keynes and the leading economists of the postwar era, such as John Hicks, Milton Friedman, and Paul Samuelson. It describes the development of theories concerning prices and markets, money and the price level, population and capital accumulation, and the choice between socialism and the market economy. The book examines how important economists have reflected on the sometimes conflicting goals of efficient resource use and socially acceptable income distribution. It also provides sketches of the lives and times of the major economists.

Economics Evolving repeatedly shows how apparently simple ideas that are now taken for granted were at one time at the cutting edge of economics research. For example, the demand curve that today's students probably get to know during their first economics lecture was originally drawn by one of the most innovative theorists in the history of the subject. The book demonstrates not only how the study of economics has progressed over the course of its history, but also that it is still a developing science.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (17 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148427
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Economics Evolving (excellent title) is an enjoyable and detailed presentation of the history of our profession. The focus is on the thoughts of individuals and, while schools of thought are broached, they are not central to the presentation. Historical background is presented and considered, but it is the development of economic thoughts that are at the heart of this analysis."--John J. Bethune, EH.Net

"In non-technical language, he analyses how these great thinkers developed their theories, making for an essential guide to the great economic thinkers of the past 200-odd years."--Economist

"Get a copy of Agnar Sandmo's book Economics Evolving."--Joseph E. Stiglitz @joestiglitz, Twitter

"Taken as whole, this is one of those relatively rare books on economics that is both readable and thoughtful. It also fills a gap in the literature between primers written for non-economists and detailed (and sometimes arduous) histories of economic thought or its various subfields."--Cameron Gordon, Economic Record

From the Inside Flap

"Economists have long known Agnar Sandmo as one of our clearest thinkers and most lucid expositors. He uses these skills brilliantly in this history of our discipline. He gives us simple, succinct, and thoughtful accounts of the ideas that have shaped the subject over the past three centuries. This book by itself constitutes a compelling argument for restoring the history of economic thought to the graduate curriculum."--Avinash Dixit, Princeton University

"In this book, one of Europe's greatest contemporary economists writes about great figures in the history of economic thought. Agnar Sandmo's Economics Evolving convinces by its clarity, depth, and readability. Highly recommended for students, scholars, and the general public alike."--Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Munich

"This book shows why the history of economics should be taken more seriously."--Geoffrey M. Hodgson, University of Hertfordshire

"Agnar Sandmo has written a lively, readable, and scholarly account of how the central core of economics has evolved from Adam Smith to the postwar era, and of how it continues to evolve. Students and instructors will find this volume both helpful and enjoyable."--Robert Dimand, Brock University

"This scholarly, authoritative, and lucid survey of the history of economic thought should be required reading for every student of economics, and can be read with profit and pleasure by professional economists and interested noneconomists alike. The book gives just the right amount of detail on the lives and contributions of the great economists, and its most striking achievement lies in its beautifully clear explanations of even the most complex ideas, without recourse to equations or jargon."--Ray Rees, University of Munich

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written text 10 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an articulate and stimulating text, written in plain english.

It charts the chronology of the major contributions, and contributors, to the development of economic thought from Aristotle's minor observations on economic life to the pioneers of Econometrics in the late twentieth century.

This is a 'page-turner' and the outstanding feature of the text is the accessibility and readability of the material - full credit to the author.

In summary, he is the 'Simon Schama' or 'Brian Cox' of his academic discipline and this will make a perfect Christmas gift in 7 months time.

Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of Economic Theory book 20 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The only criticism of this book that I have is that when the book got translated the people doing the translation seemed unaware that Part 2 and 3 of von Thunen's 'Isolated State' has been translated into English and is sold online. That was the only glich that I came across. This and Jurg Niehans book do a great deal to fill in missing parts of my economics education.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and concise introduction to the history of economic thought 30 Jan 2013
By Grant M - Published on
In his masterful Wealth & Poverty of Nations, economic historian David S. Landes opens with a quip that "Geography has fallen on hard times." I have often wondered whether the same might said of history - at least when it comes to cataloguing the development of economic thought. Despite the efforts of Landes and co. (who arguably tend to focus more on events rather than thinkers), this subject is sorely absent from the modern economic curriculum.

Agnar Sandmo's excellent Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought (EE) will hopefully go some way towards remedying that. The book is a compelling history of economic thought, told through the lives and works of the key figures that have shaped the field. The text is lucid and jargon free, so that even complex ideas are conveyed with a clear simplicity. My impression is that any lay person with an interest in economics could pick up the book and gain a deep understanding of the subject. (I personally happened to read EE while doing my graduate studies in economics and it really helped to keep the overarching ideas clear in my head. This can be surprisingly difficult at times, when getting wrapped up in the mathematics or technical arguments of a particular theory might hinder you from seeing the wood for the trees. The concise description of various concepts - from Walrasian Equilibrium to growth theory - thus provided a welcome foil to the analytical rigour required by my core grad courses.)

Each chapter or subsection opens with an brief biography of the featured economist(s). These provide valuable context to the overall discussion and are typically interspersed with interesting vignettes and anecdotes. One of my favourites occurs on p. 90, where Sandmo reproduces a letter from John Stuart Mill to the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The former is enquiring after the 3rd and 4th volumes of Hooke's Roman History, having "recapitulated" the 1st and 2nd volumes. Sandmo points out that this seemingly unremarkable correspondence between two leading intellectuals of the time was actually written when Mill had only just turned six! Mill's almost impossible precocity serves as the ideal backdrop for describing his many later contributions - in both economics and philosophy - during the pages that follow.

Sandmo, a fairly eminent economist in his own right, is never less than evenhanded in his discussion of the key figures and thinkers that have shaped the development of economics. His writing is admirably free of ideological bias and I appreciated not being able to necessarily tell which side the author would personally lean to on different economic questions. That is not to say that he is never critical, however, as EE succinctly highlights the faults in many arguments and theories. (E.g. In an interesting chapter on the economic theories of Karl Marx, we are told how a falling rate of profit is a supposedly inevitable feature of capital accumulation, and how this in turn would eventually lead to the entire system collapsing. Sandmo counters (p. 133): "Each element in his chain of reasoning may be criticized", and convincingly proceeds to do exactly that.)

Of course, not everyone's favourite economist can feature prominently (or even at all) in a book that is designed above all to be concise and readable. However, I think it is fair to say that the major players are all covered in admirable depth, as well as numerous others. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the classicists (Malthus, Say, Ricardo, and Mill) and the forerunners to the "Marginal Revolution" (Gossen, Dupuit, Cournot, and Thünen). These are the kinds of tremendously important figures that are normally relegated to the footnotes in most modern economic curricula, and it was refreshing to get a full sense of their contributions and beliefs. I found it intriguing, for instance, to see how well they had often anticipated later developments in the science and continued to have relevant insights for our own economic circumstances of the present day. (It was equally interesting to get a sense of how their views have either been distorted or successfully reproduced by later thinkers.)

In summary, this book is a wonderful companion to any student of economics, and many others besides. I can easily recommend it.
4.0 out of 5 stars A layman's history of Economic Theories 16 Mar 2014
By Carlos Ramos Mattei - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book relatively easy reading for someone outside the world of academics, although it did presuppose a certain level of concentration in reading, or reading experience. For someone interested in the subject this book can be a very good introduction.
18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm just a conduit here 5 Oct 2011
By W. Bell - Published on
I haven't read this book yet, but you might be interested to know that in his review of Sylvia Nasar's *Grand Pursuit* in The New Republic, Nobel laureate Robert Solow contrasts her account of economic thought unfavorably with Sandmo's, which he calls "excellent."
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Needed this for an economics class 16 Sep 2013
By James - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Required text for a class I am taking. Amazon had it for a great price and I hope to trade it in through amazon once I am finished with it.
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