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April 18, 2021

75 Years Without Keynes

We put the renowned economist front and center in today’s reading list.

This coming Wednesday will mark 75 years since the world lost economist John Maynard Keynes. Renowned for his belief that government intervention in the market is necessary to weather crises, today’s reading list puts his work front and center, looking at new biographies, the difference between Keynes and Keynesians, his larger philosophical vision of the good life, and more. 

His ideas stretched beyond economics journals, and also had broad appeal among the wider public. This was in no small part thanks to the work of Chester Bowles, whose 1946 pamphlet Tomorrow Without Fear translated Keynes’s theories into jargon-free prose—and in so doing convinced a generation of the importance of having a prosperous working class who can afford to buy goods. Finally back in print in 2019 after being unavailable for decades, Tomorrow Without Fear was discussed by Bowles’s son, distinguished economist Samuel Bowles, in an interview with Boston Review co-editor Josh Cohen that same year. 

Sociologist Robert Manduca also did an in-depth appraisal of the text, applauding how Keynes’s dry economic arguments became accessible and evocative, and considering what it might teach us today about communicating ideas. “While Keynesian thinking is beginning to resurface in the academy,” he writes, “it still has a long way to go in terms of shaping popular discourse.” At Boston Review, we like to think that our work has assisted in such efforts, especially our new special project Rethinking Political Economy, and our best-selling book from Summer 2019, Economics After Neoliberalism, which is firmly in the Keynesian spirit.

Indeed, as Jonathan Kirshner writes in one of his pieces in today’s reading list, “what is necessary now is not just a return to Keynes (certainly), but, as Keynes would have urged, ‘A reopening of the economics discipline to sociology, history, politics and ethics.’” Penned by scholars from a range of backgrounds, the pieces below reaffirm Boston Review’s commitment to doing just that. 

Jonathan Kirshner
Separating Keynes from the Keynesians
Robert Manduca
In the 1940s and ’50s, the general public understood and agreed upon Keynesian economic principles. Today, we can learn a lot from the popularizing efforts that led to that consensus and long-lasting economic success.
Jonathan Kirshner
A new biography reveals the full scope of John Maynard Keynes’s critique of unfettered capitalism, emphasizing the economist’s larger philosophical vision of the good life.
Jonathan Kirshner
A decade after the financial crisis, economists still have not rethought macroeconomics. A new history takes on the field's unrepentant hubris.
Samuel Bowles, Joshua Cohen
The postwar generation understood why a prosperous working class is crucial to the economy. Can economics be accessible again to ordinary Americans?
Jonathan Kirshner

The Next Wall Street Collapse

Dani Rodrik, Gabriel Zucman, Suresh Naidu
Contemporary economics is finally breaking free from its market fetishism, offering plenty of tools we can use to make society more inclusive.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Sign up for our newsletters to get them straight to your inbox before they appear online.

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