The Worldly Philosophers By Robert L. Heilbroner

Pages: 5 (1024 words) Published: January 9, 2018


The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (1953) by American economist and philosopher Robert L. Heilbroner adumbrates the lives of major economists, including Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Heilbroner began the work as a student at The New School for Social Research in New York. Heilbroner’s first book, it has since sold more than four million copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

By worldly, Heilbroner refers to economists who were most interested in the daily life of human condition, especially the human drive for wealth acquisition. This canonical text has the themes of survival, exploitation, greed, compassion, and the meaning of human relations.

In the introduction, Heilbroner announces...

Chapter seven, “The Victorian World and the Underworld of Economics,” looks at how Marx’s theories were not really accepted during the Victorian Era (1837-1901) because worker conditions in England continued to improve. The author describes several economists who gained prominence at the time and whose views represented accepted thought for that time: Henry George, Frederic Bastiat, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, and Jacob A. Hobson.

Heilbroner presents and analyses the theories of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), the skeptic American sociologist, in chapter eight. During his life, Veblen saw greed become a virtue. He analyzed this in his most well-known book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). He wanted to know why some cultures, such as American Indians and Australian bushmen worked for pride in their work or for the welfare of their children; why, in the US, was there a separation between leisure and work? Unlike prior classical economist, Veblen argued that the inherent human impulse was not to have leisure time, but to have pride in one’s work. In the past, people gained wealth through honest work; in Veblen’s time, capitalists, or “robber barons,” started to gain wealth through violent, rude, and ungentlemanly...

Keynes was the editor of the prominent publication Economic Journal for nearly 30 years; in that position, he wrote and edited theories that would help countries like the US get out of the terrible depression from 1929. One of these were the notion that an economy can stay in permanent depression unless the government is willing to invest in the market and “prime the pump.” This managed capitalism remains influential in many developed...
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