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John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman Paperback – Abridged, 5 Sep 2013
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A masterpiece of biographical and historical analysis (New York Times)
Robert Skidelsky's magisterial biography of John Maynard Keynes, now available in one abridged volume covering the whole of Keynes' life and work. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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If the readers fairly new to Keynes I recommend reading some of Keynes' own work first, especially 'Economic Consequences of the Peace' and perhaps 'Essays in Persuasion' - together with the material in Skidelsky's book this should help bring the great man to life.
Despite being fascinated by the subject, this book took a while to read. The author goes to no particular effort to enhance the drama of the story, which I guess aids the understanding but means the books isn't as gripping or fast paced as it could be. Most of the book is ordered chronologically, with chapters jumping between Keynes' struggles to get his ideas accepted by both the political and academic elite, his social life, his philosophical and other personal interests, and the time he spent devoted to his wife, family and estate. This approach is great for giving us a taste of what it was like to be Keynes but it makes it harder to follow particular areas of interest. If youre interested in the man as an economist, I recommend you also read Minksy's 'John Maynard Keynes' for his analyses of Keynes' influence from a practical and political perspective, or Gordon Fletchers brilliant and very readable 'Keynesian Revolution and its Critics' for more on how Keynes' work was received academically. Skidelsky's work remains the no 1 choice for understanding Keynes as a man, for those interested in the period, and for folk interested in understanding important battle in the high level war of ideas that is an ever present feature of Western Civilisation.
One small area where Skidelsky maybe looses a little perspective is when recalling Keynes last year where he possibly focuses a little too much on the great mans failing health and declining skills. Although Keynes didn't enjoy resounding success in his negotiations with the Americans, he was in many ways at the peak of his powers during his last year, and he knew it to. As he said to Hayeck when reassuring him over worries of the state becoming too strong, Keynes advised he could change world wide public opinion in a flash if need be. Its tragic he died before he could spell out the specific policies hed advise to bring about a "moderate socialising of investment" - something he probably only had sufficient influence to do successfully by the mid 40s.
And that's about as far as I can fault this most excellent work. Skidelsky has a new book on Keynes' revival during the current downturn coming out in September. Cant wait!
There are good pieces of personal information collated by Skidelsky when researching the book, and has been updated in light of modern research. Nevertheless, I am left feeling that perhaps I should have started the three-volume edition, so well written is it, but having already read a 1000 page book, would I want to re-read all that material?
I would recommend to prospective readers to try the three volume one, unless they are sure that they will be unable to finish it, as I am sure there will be much of interest in the full version. At times one can tell this is an abridgement, but that does not detract to any large degree from the excellent prose.
The book itself deal with all aspects of Keynes life: personal, political, academic; though the emphasis changes as the relative importance of these in his life change. Most of the book is narrative, although at times the author intersects it with some poignant analysis or reflection, and this works well.
Finally, this great book is very easy to read and has very uselful indexing and mini-biographies of the characters involved.
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