Keynes: A Critical Life

Keynes: A Critical Life

Keynes: A Critical Life

Keynes: A Critical Life

Synopsis

Only a person of Keynes's unique character could have achieved what he did. After teaching neoclassical economics for two decades, he developed an extraordinary theory--extraordinary in that it built upon the theoretical complex he intended to overthrow and extraordinary in that it provided the best guidance for defeating the Depression of the 1930s and managing an economy thereafter. This biography shows how Keynes's personality left its stamp on his ideas, the connections between his all-too-human quirks and his theorizing, between his dominating personality and his success as a policymaker. Although sympathetic to the man, his aims, and his accomplishments, this is the first critical biography of John Maynard Keynes.

Excerpt

The title of this volume is a double entendre, the Life meaning both Keynes's life as it was lived and for which he was responsible, and his life as it is here written, for which only the writer is responsible. I am making two points, the first banal and the second, a precision. Any great person lives a critical life by definition, his or her greatness showing itself by its critical role in great developments. in writing Keynes's life, to go on to the second point, I take a critical position, unlike the other biographers, but it is not to be mistaken for hostile. Rather, it is, as I believe I show, sympathetic while refusing to slip into partisanship or hagiography. This approach derives from the sense that all persons are humanly flawed and that greatness derives its character from the flaws as well as from the excellences.

The association of individual greatness with great developments is a self- evident fact of history. Uniquely fitted for the circumstances, the great person relates to them uncannily and expresses their essence in his or her functioning. a few examples can illustrate what I am trying to say.

Alexander the Great represented the leap from the Greek polis to the superstate. Drawing on the barbaric energy of his own Macedonians and the thought and skills of the Greeks, he conceived of a ruthless Greek-Asiatic ecumene and took advantage of the weaknesses and divisions of his world to advance much further than could the Macedonians, Greeks, Persians, and the neighboring peoples of themselves at the time. the aristocratic demagogue Caesar represented the transition from an aristocratic republic to an authoritarian empire responsive . . .

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