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Keynes: The Return of the Master [Paperback]

Robert Skidelsky
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Sep 2010

Robert Skidelsky's Keynes: The Return of the Master shows how the great economist's ideas not only explain why the current financial crisis occurred - but are our best way out.

'One would expect brokers to be wrong. If, in addition to their other inside advantages, they were capable of good advice, clearly they would have retired long ago with a large fortune'
  John Maynard Keynes

When unbridled capitalism falters, is there an alternative? The twentieth century's most influential economist tells us that there is. John Maynard Keynes argued that an unmanaged market system is inherently unstable because of irreduceable uncertainty; that fiscal and monetary ammunition is needed to counter economic shocks; and that governments need to maintain enough total spending power in the economy to minimize the chance of serious recessions happening.

'The great economist's theories have never been more relevant ... and Robert Skidelsky is the guide of choice ... A must read'
  Paul Krugman, Observer

'Keynes's economic policies helped lift Britain from its 1930s slump. This accessible, timely study argues he could do the same again'
  Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

'Masterly ... conveys complex ideas with clarity and controlled anger'
  Oliver Kamm, The Times

'Skidelsky knows more about Keynes than anyone alive ... he is righteous in his thunder ... provocative ... refreshing'
  Dwight Gardner, The New York Times

'Thought-provoking ... the best account I have read of the development of the credit crunch'
  Samuel Brittan, Financial Times

Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three volume biography of the economist 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 is also the author of the The World After Communism (1995).

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141043601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141043609
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick. His three volume biography of the economist 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 is the author of the The World After Communism (1995). He was made a life peer in 1991, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1994.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 35 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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important update 25 Nov 2009
If anyone ever 'got' economics it was certainly Keynes, and if anyone 'gets' Keynes it is Skidelsky. Description of The Global Economic Crisis is a bit old-hat by now, so the start of the book drags very, very slightly, but as the critique develops and moves into proper exploration of 'The Master's' ideas in the post-crisis arena - with a good bit of banker-bashing too boot - the book comes into its own.

Not too technical, as has been suggested elsewhere. Indeed, Skidelsky is no mathematician, which is to the great benefit of the readability of his latest work.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, shame about the proofreading! 18 Aug 2011
This is a fabulous and incredibly concise introduction to Keynes, a great primer for several schools of economics, and a pithy analysis of the economic troubles we find ourselves in. It would easily be a 5-star review if it weren't for the fact that my paperback edition is littered with typos, mis-spellings and some sentences which don't even make any sense. Sort it out Penguin!
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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
Unequalled scholarship
Published 2 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 3 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 4 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 16 months ago 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 18 months ago 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 18 months ago 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 19 months ago 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 19 months ago by Monte Carlo
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account, but keep it away from the kids
At the time Robert Skidelsky penned this paean to Keynesian economics and its potential for resolving the prevailing financial crisis, 2010, Labour were still in power and he... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Steve Keen
4.0 out of 5 stars adrianc
Robert Skidelsky has, at a stroke, reminded us just how powerful and insightful was Keynes' intellect. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Adrian S. Cutten
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