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Grand pursuit : the story of economic genius /

The epic story of the making of modern economics, and of how economics rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material fate in its own hands rather than in fate. Nasar's account begins with Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew observing the condition of the poor majority in mid-nine...

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Main Author: Nasar, Sylvia.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2011
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Robert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers (1953; 7th ed., 1999) educated generations with its sweeping story of how great economists from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes accounted for the ways of the modern economy. Nasar's Grand Pursuit is a worthy successor to Heilbroner's story, but her tale is both more and less ambitious than Heilbroner's. Her focus is narrower, for one thing, but, as a consequence, it is richer and teaches more about economics. Nasar (Columbia Univ. School of Journalism), a former economics journalist, now gives a grand but not overly generalized story of the ideas of a set of thinkers who transformed economics in the 20th century. Beginning really with Alfred Marshall and the Webbs, Nasar provides a history of the interlocking relationship of ideas among Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, F. A. Hayek, Joan Robinson, and Amartya Sen. Her story tells readers that there is more to the 20th century than the Keynes-Hayek debate (compare to Nicholas Wapshott's Keynes Hayek, CH, Jan'12, 49-2797). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. R. B. Emmett James Madison College, Michigan State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

The historical transformation of economics from laissez-faire into a. instrument of master. (Nasar's phrase) thematically presides over these biographical sketches of some of those who were instrumental in the process. Showing them all wrestling in some way with the causes of poverty and prosperity, Nasar opens with Marx and his habit of supporting himself on cadged capital while he wrote Das Kapital. Indeed, the way Nasar's subjects dealt with their own funds enlivens her presentations of what they advised businesses, banks, and governments to do with theirs. In Nasar's time frame, about 1870-1960, the booms and busts her economists lived through affected their wallets as much as their theorizing. Though few of her subjects besides Marx, Keynes, and Milton Friedman will be familiar to many readers, such figures as Irving Fisher, inventor of the Rolodex, and Joan Robinson, a British economist with a colorful background, become supremely interesting in her hands. Also including sketches of socialist Beatrice Webb, conservative icon F. W. Hayek, and developmental economist Amartya Sen, Nasar creatively deploys lives-and-times to show the evolution of economics from an explanation of fate into an application of policy. . HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind (1998), a biography of schizophrenic mathematician-economist John Nash, was converted into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Russell Crowe, priming above-average awareness of this author and interest in her sequel about economists.--Taylor, Gilber. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Nasar's A Beautiful Mind mined a rich dramatic vein in the story of a solitary mathematical genius. Her new work looks to a broad sweep of modern economic history for similar magic-with mixed results. While the author rightly sees a vital and indeed dramatic core to the "dismal science," the narrative can feel desultory at times. Tracing the accompanying rise of economic theory in the development of global capitalism, Nasar's cast of (mostly) famous men and women seeks to tackle the increasingly disconcerting problem of widespread want in the midst of enormous concentrations of wealth. Her chronological narrative emphasizes a key tension between antistatist laissez faire ideas and the logic of the modern welfare state. A final chapter on Indian economist Amartya Sen takes us beyond the West briefly, but the book concentrates overwhelmingly on the centers of capitalist power up through WWII. The attempt to squeeze a good story from her subjects can encourage a lopsided accounting, where Marx, for example, becomes a clownish personal figure whose economic ideas are all the easier to dismiss while the contributions of Alfred Marshall are arguably overemphasized. Historiographically thin, the book serves best as a curiosity-piquing introduction to figures and basic themes in modern economic history rather than a definitive study. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Nasar (John S. and James. L Knight Professor, Columbia Graduate Sch. of Journalism; A Beautiful Mind) posits that economics theorists have over the last two centuries shown people how they might take charge of their destinies rather than trusting their material progress to fate. It's an ambitious project, and Nasar offers chapters that mix history and biography while explaining the greatest hits of economic thought. She links theorists with their settings, including Marx and Engels in Paris and England, Beatrice and Sidney Webb in London, Joseph Schumpeter in Vienna, and John Maynard Keynes seemingly everywhere. Nasar's biographical sketches are lively, but the history sometimes bogs down in the (still simplified) economic details. Although the book proceeds chronologically in three sections (pre-World War I, during World War I and the lead-up to World War II, and the postwar period), it never quite seems to gel as either narrative history or biography. VERDICT Libraries and readers have waited 13 years for Nasar's second book, and there will be demand. But the story may be too dry for fans of biography and not rigorous enough for hard-core economics wonks. [See Prepub Alert, 2/28/11.]-Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader's Advisor Online (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A popular treatment of the emergence of political economics, as well as a discussion of the major unresolved issues still on the table today, such as the role of government in managing society versus the efficacy of the free market.Nasar (Journalism/Columbia Graduate School; A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., 1998) begins her examination of the evolution of modern society, and the attempt by leading intellectuals to understand and shape the process, with a look at the Victorian era and the writings of Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Malthus and others. This was a time when the question of how to improve the deplorable condition of the British working classesillustrated by writers such as Charles Dickens, whom Nasar citeswas hotly debated, with Malthus blaming the depravity of the poor and Marx predicting revolution. The author references the less well-known but influential work of economist Alfred Marshall, a champion of universal education and technology who argued against the notion that philanthropy and political economy were at odds and that progress was not possible without revolution. Nasar acknowledges the Fabian society as the firstthink tank, although the word "connot[ing] the growing role of the expert to public policy making wasn't coined until World War II." At the turn of the century, it was influential in shaping public policy in the direction of social reform, attracting such notables as Winston Churchill, then a liberal, to its ranks. Nasar gives a gripping account of the devastation in Europe after World War I, and the conflict since over how to resolve cyclical economic crises such as the depression of the 1930s and the current recession.This broad-sweep introduction adds an important historical dimension to current debates on the future of the American economy.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.