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How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life [Hardcover]

Robert Skidelsky
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Aug 2012
A provocative and timely call for a moral approach to economics, drawing on philosophers, political theorists, writers, and economists from Aristotle to Marx to Keynes.

What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that many asked themselves when the financial system crashed in 2008. This book tackles such questions head-on.
   The authors begin with the great economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930 Keynes predicted that, within a century, per capita income would steadily rise, people’s basic needs would be met, and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week. Clearly, he was wrong: though income has increased as he envisioned, our wants have seemingly gone unsatisfied, and we continue to work long hours.
   The Skidelskys explain why Keynes was mistaken. Then, arguing from the premise that economics is a moral science, they trace the concept of the good life from Aristotle to the present and show how our lives over the last half century have strayed from that ideal. Finally, they issue a call to think anew about what really matters in our lives and how to attain it.
   How Much Is Enough? is that rarity, a work of deep intelligence and ethical commitment accessible to all readers. It will be lauded, debated, cited, and criticized. It will not be ignored.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (NY) (1 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515075
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 845,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A crisp and pungent book (Rowan Williams Prospect)

"How much is enough?" is a good question. Anyone who sets store by capitalism and markets will find [this] book uncomfortable reading. It should be read all the same (Economist)

A truly innovative and radical perspective on reshaping the economy ... thought-stirring and extremely refreshing (John Gray Guardian)

A welcome call to reinvigorate society's ethical aspect and bring about the good life for everyone (New Yorker)

In their thoughtful book, the Skidelskys move seamlessly from the abstract to the concrete; from philosophy to public policy. They note that Keynes's futuristic essay was ignored as the world sank into the Great Depression. Will we again ignore this call to imagine a better future? (Jon Cruddas MP Independent) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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. He was made a life peer in 1991, and aFellow of the British Academy in 1994.

Edward Skidelsky is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Exeter. He is author of Ernst Cassirer: The Last Philosopher of Culture and contributes regularly to the New Statesman and Prospect. He is currently working on a book entitled The Language of the Virtues.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This book has been such a refreshing read. It transcends the jealous whingeing and blaming so prevalent in most books about today's economy, and makes you thing on a much bigger, broader scale about the system we live in, and whether it's truly serving us in the best possible way at the moment.

The book is objective,well reasoned and thoroughly engaging throughout. I didn't agree with every suggestion made at the end of the book, but it made me think about the way the world works today and how that system affects me personally in a way that no other book ever has. It's honest and unsensational in its language, which makes it far easier to engage with on a meaningful level.

Since finishing this book I've been thinking long and hard about the true value of money, its role versus its place in society, and how it both enables and frustrates the journey towards the "ideal lifestyle".

If every member of the House of Lords wrote books that were as challenging, carefully considered and genuinely concerned about the state of the modern individual in their nation, this country would be a much brighter and stronger place. Great stuff.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tethered to work 1 Jan 2014
By Sphex
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One answer to the question of the book's title is given by the epigraph to this excellent book: "Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little". This is the default demanded by consumerism, as driven by the side of capitalism that exalts "some of the most reviled human characteristics, such as greed, envy and avarice." Robert and Edward Skidelsky are not dogmatic anti-capitalists, however. They acknowledge capitalism's success at making "possible vast improvements in material conditions" but they're more interested in how insatiability "leads us away from the good life" and in how the continued pursuit of economic growth may actually damage what we value most. For those of us who want to step off the "nothing is enough" treadmill, the Skidelskys provide a valuable framework with which to resist the clamour of advertising and lifestyle choice and the lure of endless acquisition.

What's wrong with acquisitiveness, or, less pejoratively, with aspiration? The authors dismiss the critiques given by both Marxism ("economic insatiability is a creation of capitalism") and Christianity (it's "the product of original sin"). Their own view is that economic insatiability is rooted in human nature - "in the disposition to compare our fortune with that of our fellows and find it wanting" - but that it "has been greatly intensified by capitalism, which has made it the psychological basis of an entire civilization." (They might have quoted Shakespeare. Nerissa, Portia's gentlewoman-in-waiting in The Merchant of Venice, puts it simply: "they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.")

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Leitir
Format:Kindle Edition
This book will certainly provoke thinking and learning if you set aside time to read it. Some of its proposals in the conclusion may come across as radical. But its greatest contribution is to remind us of the need to form a common vision, and of the dangers of a vacuum in this area. For me, the most enlightening aspect of the book (and there are many) is the changes it traces in the discourse of economics over the last century or so. In so far as this reminds us of how we should question all presumed or received wisdoms (including those of this book!), it provides a singular service in facilitating the conscientious reader in reflecting on what a common vision of the good life might look and feel like. Definitely worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a really good book and well worth reading. However, distinguishing or failing to distinguish between wants and needs is so extruciatingly painful that I am beginning to wonder whether anyone amongst the powers that be ever thought it necessary - I am not for the first time becoming suspicious that the credit crunch may have been orchestrated by those in the know in order to rescussitate a 'back to basics' style campaign in order that the market may then be freed up to move once more beyond basic needs back to luxuries - before sometime in the future it's in danger of 'flooding' once more? I am still hoping to find a book that deals with our 'debt' and who we are (which individuals/organisations/countries?~) indebted to - and whether they then therefore have any interest in increasing our indebtedness...? Banks often do and often used to try to do this...how can we be sure that Arabian individuals or China may not try to do this, and why wouldn't it if there is not some kind of political consensus in these/this area - and what is preventing it from doing this if a prevention strategy can be relied upon and is at work?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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. They convincingly argue that neither happiness or sustainability should become the ultimate policy goal to replace GDP.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
present for my girlfriend, she really enjoyed it, and she bought another copy for her dad

this is the 2nd edition I believe, after the first edition there were a few... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Mr. C. D. J. Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply awesome!
Initially, I consulted the book for my essay at school and then I found it was no longer about the essay, it was about moral decadence and loud applause for same. Read more
Published 3 months ago by dafe ifeoma
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opener
This book is an eye opener, as life is not all about work, work, work. Leisure time spent wisely is more satisfying than the income realise from work. Read more
Published 7 months ago by jon
3.0 out of 5 stars my mistake
I thought this book would show the way to a new philosophy on life and help me find a way to steer clear of a materialistic lifestyle. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs Linda M Spinks
2.0 out of 5 stars Excessive use of others' philosophies, poor examples and poor...
I persevered through the overly academic vocabulary and endless quotation other others' philosophies in the hope that at the end I would discover some novel and practical... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Reginald Perrin
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
This book helps to put our lives into perspective. the part where author goes through philosophical paradigms might seem a bit too long, but it's quite useful for the remaining... Read more
Published 16 months ago by smtip
4.0 out of 5 stars Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury's fascinating and excellent...
I have not personally read the book, but really enjoyed the review written by Rowan Williams:

"Should people be paid for donating blood? Read more
Published 18 months ago by F. Last
4.0 out of 5 stars Small-c conservative argument against growth
Maybe it's too early to call it a trend, but it's nice to see that some "establishment" figures in the US and UK have begun speaking out against economic growth as a policy for... Read more
Published 23 months ago by A. J. Sutter
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