Reviews elsewhere on the web:
The Curmudgeon's Attic
Danny Yee
Mark Skousen
Fearful Symmetries

Robert Heilbroner

The worldly philosophers

The worldly philosophers: The lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers by Robert Heilbroner explores the progess of economics by describing the work of the principal contributors to the subject since its beginnings a few centuries ago.

The book starts by looking at the work of Adam Smith, but then moves on to more pessimistic views such as those of Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. There's a chapter on the Utopian visions of Robert Owen and J.S. Mill, and, of course, a description of the ideas of Karl Marx. The book moves on through the Victorian era to the 20th Century with a look at the work of Thorstein Veblen and then gets to the more modern ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter. The final chapter, added in the 7th edition, looks at the future of economics.

I wasn't convinced that the last chapter added much of value to the work, but overall the book is well worth reading. The choice of the important economic thinkers is well made, and the inclusion of plenty of biographical material makes the book an accessible introduction to the development of economics. I wish that similar books were available for other subjects.

Product Description
The bestselling classic that examines the history of economic thought from Adam Smith to Karl Marx—“all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish” (The New York Times).

The Worldly Philosophers not only enables us to see more deeply into our history but helps us better understand our own times. In this seventh edition, Robert L. Heilbroner provides a new theme that connects thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. The theme is the common focus of their highly varied ideas—namely, the search to understand how a capitalist society works. It is a focus never more needed than in this age of confusing economic headlines.

In a bold new concluding chapter entitled “The End of the Worldly Philosophy?” Heilbroner reminds us that the word “end” refers to both the purpose and limits of economics. This chapter conveys a concern that today’s increasingly “scientific” economics may overlook fundamental social and political issues that are central to economics. Thus, unlike its predecessors, this new edition provides not just an indispensable illumination of our past but a call to action for our future.