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Keynes: The Return of the Master [Kindle Edition]

Robert Skidelsky
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the current financial crisis Keynes has been taken out of his cupboard, dusted down, consulted, cited, invoked and appealed to about why events have taken the course they have and how a rescue operation can be effected. Why have we gone back so emphatically to the ideas of an economist who died fifty years ago?

There are three main ideas of Keynes's worth thinking about now. The first is that the future is unknowable, and therefore that economic storms, especially those originating in the financial system, are not random shocks which impinge on smoothly-adjusting markets, but part of the normal working of the market system. The second idea is that economies wounded by these 'shocks' can, if left to themselves, stay in a depressed condition for a long time. That is why governments need to have and use fiscal ammunition to prevent a slide from financial crisis to economic depression. The third concerns what he termed 'organicism': societies are communities not, as he put it, 'branches of the multiplication table'. This limited his support for the pursuit of efficiency at all costs. The ideas of John Maynard Keynes have never been more timely.

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Foreign Affairs "The book offers clear and cogent critiques of modern macroeconomic thought, along with a brief but useful summary of what went wrong in 2007-9." Financial Times, October 18, 2010"Skidelsky's succinct, lively, unashamed paean analyses Keynes's core values and offers a persuasive pitch for the contemporary relevance (and necessity) of his ideas."


"Foreign Affairs"
"The book offers clear and cogent critiques of modern macroeconomic thought, along with a brief but useful summary of what went wrong in 2007-9."
"Financial Times", October 18, 2010"Skidelsky's succinct, lively, unashamed paean analyses Keynes's core values and offers a persuasive pitch for the contemporary relevance (and necessity) of his ideas."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1417 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1586488279
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 Sept. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI99FU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #74,969 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Robert Skidelsky is right : we need to restore Keynesian economics to the current debate. Lord Skidelsky has contributed immensely with his monumental three volume biography of Keynes (`Hopes Betrayed', `The Economist as Saviour', and `Fighting for Freedom'). In this shorter book he summarises aspects of Keynes' economic theory. He attacks neo-classical economic theory's assumptions of rational expectations, real business cycle theory, and efficient market theory. He highlights inescapable, irreducible uncertainty as the key Keynesian diagnostic of economic behaviour, leading to Keynes' theory of `Liquidity Preference' whereby actors hold money to allay uncertainty, and thus reduce effective demand, leading to macroeconomic recession. He correctly points out that philosophically this diagnostic of irreducible uncertainty challenges the established Newtonian paradigm.

But more importantly he argues the practical superiority of Keynes over monetarist economics. As an economic historian, Skidelsky does this in his core chapter 5 by seeking to demonstrate that the global economy performed better under the Keynesian Bretton Woods period of 1951 to 1973, than under the monetarist free market `Washington Consensus' which replaced it. At this point Skidelsky's admitted lack of economic training and of the mathematical skills he too easily derides weakens his point. He interprets the graph on page 117 of world real GDP growth as two points of high average growth under Bretton Woods and low average growth under the Washington Consensus. A visual and econometric best line fit of this data would show a growth line declining from 1960 to 1985 and then rising, which would undermine this particular aspect of Skidelsky's argument.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We need the master back... 4 Oct. 2011
Think of the current recession as the mother of all hangovers. The World economy has been partying insanely for the best part of a decade - busily borrowing, spending, investing and speculating without real regard to what economists like to call 'the fundamentals'. In other words by failing to address the risk attached to a given activity in relation to a possible return; institutions and individuals have spent money to no good purpose whilst at the same time racking up huge debts. Hence the big headache the morning after the debauchery the night before.

So, governments, businesses and me if not you, have been binging on cheap credit. Eventually, the party has to stop when the money runs out. The waiter of doom presents his bill. Governments who have run big budget deficits have racked up massive interest charges on loans face huge problems as do the citizens in their care. Governments like Greece are faced with debt default, firing civil servants, begging from the European Central Bank or World Bank, cutting back on services and raising taxes. Their citizens are faced with higher unemployment, wage cuts, inflation and failing public services. Businesses find profit margins squeezed reduced sales revenues and rising input costs. It's a big mess and possibly it's going to get messier before much longer. But what to do about it?

After a period of heavy indulgence its fairly normal for the patient to go on a diet - lose a bit of weight and generally reform previous bad behaviour, at least for a while, until normal vigour is restored. 'Keynes -Return of the Master' is a detailed analysis of why the market cannot be left to itself to clear the debris up the morning after the economics party is over.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Return of Keynesian Economics 21 Feb. 2011
By DigiTAL
Given that macroeconomists have been thinking about the world's economy since the late eighteenth century, an impartial observer could be forgiven for assuming that the field had reached some kind of a consensus in over 200 years.

They couldn't be more wrong.

The twentieth century saw a great tug-of-war between two separate schools of thought. In the blue corner, stand the economists who see the economy as a well oiled machine, instantly responding to exogenous shocks by reaching a new satisfactory equilibrium -- the classical economists and their latter day equivalent, the rational expectations crowd and real business cycle theorists.

In the red corner, stand Keynes and his myriad followers. When puzzling over the Great Depression, Keynes created a new model of macroeconomics: which stressed the imperfections and frictions in the economic machine that could keep the economy in an unsatisfactory rut for years. These frictions allowed for a role for government: to expand the money supply, cut taxes, and increase spending in the face of recession. Much of this has become modern-day common sense policy, but he was opposed by President Hoover in the U.S., and the British Treasury who insisted that a balanced government budget laid the best foundations for growth.

Sounds familiar?

Robert Skidelsky traces out this theoretical tug-of-war, and explains how the current crisis calls for, "Keynes: The Return of the Master". He also explains how this war was an overtly political one. The modern day economists who wanted to overturn Keynes were mostly conservatives with an innate distrust of government.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
important summaries.
Published 7 months ago by saronic
4.0 out of 5 stars It's time to revisit Keynes and this is the place to start
Although this is not as up to date as books like Martin Wolf's 'The Shifts and the Shocks' in its account of what we now call the Great Recession, it adds something new - a reprise... Read more
Published 8 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Unequalled scholarship
Published 11 months ago by fatmanbat46
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Full of typing errors. Why? Worth reading but a little too reverential for my tastes.
Published 12 months ago by stephen harker
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writer
I've now bought another Skidelsky to enjoying again his highly intelligent analysis of people, situations and economics. Read more
Published 13 months ago by kay frew
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of Keynes and his work
This book cuts through much that has served to confuse discussion of economics in recent years, and reconnects with the humanity in Keynes' writings.
Published on 1 July 2013 by John Ceri Gosling
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
The guide to how Keynes would explain why we are in the mess we are in and how we should get out of it. Compulsory reading for all ministers of finance.
Published on 29 April 2013 by Michael John Mulvany
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative but a bit long-winded
I found the book full of information, but I found some of the writing a bit long-winded and I struggled to keep focused.
Published on 14 April 2013 by Mr. Vernon B. Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work!
Economics made so much more easier to understand from the point of view of Author and Keynes himself. Read more
Published on 30 Mar. 2013 by Devastated :(
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Skidelsky
Of course those who are anti-Keynes will not appreciate this book. It was an excellent book, truly riveting read - although I did feel that it was going in circles. Read more
Published on 28 Mar. 2013 by Monte Carlo
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