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How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life Hardcover – 28 Jun 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (28 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144485
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144486
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three volume biography of 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. ('This three-volume life of the British economist should be given a Nobel Prize for History if there was such a thing' - Norman Stone.) He was made a life peer in 1991, and aFellow of the British Academy in 1994. Edward Skidelsky is a lecturer in the Philosophy Department of the University of Exeter. He contributes regularly to the New Statesman, Telegraph, Spectator and Prospect. His previous books include The Conditions of Goodness and Ernst Cassirer: The Last Philosopher of Culture.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Diziet TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 July 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Maynard Keynes believed that there would come a time when capitalism would be able to provide for all our needs. When that time was reached, there would be no further reason for growth. Capitalism was a necessary but temporary evil - 'a transitional stage, a means to an end, the end being the good life' (P17). Unfortunately, as we have seen, this 'end' has actually been the triumph of an aggressive and consumerist capitalism that has swept all before it, capturing us in a seemingly endless spiral, not of 'needs' but 'wants'. We are caught in an 'insatiability trap' and 'the good life' appears to be receding into dreams and sitcoms.

This book tries to explain just how this all came about. And, after exploring the roots of what more and more people are recognizing as our global dilemma, attempts to put forward some solutions and new ways to define and move towards this 'good life'.

The book starts with Keynes. Keynes believed that the average number of hours that people worked would slowly diminish as technology became more and more efficient. In reality what we have seen is instead of four people being employed for ten hours a week, one person works for forty hours, leaving three people unemployed. At the same time, capitalism has increasingly 'monetized' and commodified everything it can, as Michael Sandel, amongst many others, has shown. Monetizing things changes how they are valued - not only do they become comparable in money terms, but their very nature is altered. For example: '[e]ducation...is increasingly seen not as a preparation for the good life but as a mean to increase the value of 'human capital''.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By JSaunders on 25 Jun 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable account of how, despite getting much richer since Keynes wrote his essay 'Economic possibilities for our grandchildren', we haven't had the concomitant drop in working hours Keynes forecast. The authors mine a rich stream of thought which considers capitalism a 'Faustian pact' with unseemly motives for the production of wealth. How this pact has got out of hand, with GDP growth changing from a means to bringing about the good life to the end pursued by government policy is the first argument of the book.

The authors also argue - following Aristotle, and echoing Michael Sandel in his book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? - that the draining of a moral and ethical discourse from public discussion of policy has merely obscured, rather than removed, the ethical stance behind political decisions. This is a welcome point, and along with their discussion of the 'Faustian pact' forms the most successful passage of the book.

So far, so good - but unfortunately the rest of the book is on shakier ground. The authors outline their own vision for 'the good life', which I felt was too subjective to be a programme with a real chance of being adopted by any mainstream political party. They make some valid criticisms of it, but nevertheless I feel the capabilities approach (developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum) remains a much better guide for policy than their assertion that the good life be promoted by government.

Two chapters deal in turn with the new happiness economics promoted by Richard Layard and the green/sustainable movement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Jan 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a timely, ambitious and thought-provoking book that attempts to resurrect a notion of the `good life' as the basis for a saner vision of how societies should function than that provided by the current `standard model' of growth-obsessed, market-dominated neoliberalism. Part economic treatise and part philosophical discourse, it draws on sources as diverse as Aristotle, eastern sages and Catholic social teaching to try and refashion economics as a `moral science'. It aims to show how the language of virtue and the common good, together with a consensus around an agreed range of `basic goods' (like health, security and so on), might help recreate a climate in which polices that ask what work, money and consumption are actually for can once again be aired.

I particularly enjoyed the authors' analysis of how the Rawlsian idea of the liberal state's neutrality vis-à-vis human desires plays into the hands of the market, which (since Mandeville and Adam Smith) regards us all as merely self-interested actors. But the Skidelskys wish to discuss not our desires - which (they contend, from analysis of a mass of evidence) seem, along with an illusory happiness, to be ever-receding as our Faustian bargain with the promise of endless growth starts to unravel. Rather, they focus on what it might be appropriate to desire; and how we might get off the growth treadmill so we can really start living life to the full. A basic income, steeply graduated purchase taxes and tax measures to curb advertising are among their proposals.
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