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stillhopeful
10-27-2010, 12:00 AM
Im looking for a good/great/the best book on the history of economic thought. Any suggestions? I see a few on Amazon (E.K. Hunt, Rothbard ... ) but its hard to trust the reviews. Thanks.

SlowLearner38
10-27-2010, 02:36 AM
We used 'The Evolution of Economic Thought' by Brue & Grant for the course I took on the history of economic thought. I really enjoyed the textbook, so I definitely recommend it. Not to mention, history of economic thought was my favorite undergraduate economics course.

azzobrother
10-27-2010, 03:30 AM
Check out 'The Worldly Philosophers' by Robert Heilbroner.

Zomb1
10-27-2010, 08:36 AM
I second 'The Worldly Philosophers.' It is not a comprehensive history of economic thought, but it does put a lot of things into perspective and it is just an excellent, fun book. For something more modern, you could also check out 'Inside the Economist's Mind' which is a collection of interviews with prominent economists. However, macroeconomists are way overrepresented (as the interviews are reprinted from a macro journal) and interviews are of varying quality. Still, it gives you a really good insight into how modern economics developed as a discipline. I especially liked the interview with Samuelson. Something similar would be 'Lives of the Laureates' but I did not have the opportunity to read that book yet, so I cannot comment on it. I tried reading one textbook on the subject, but found it quite dull:)

oleador
10-27-2010, 05:06 PM
If you are interested in history of macroeconomic thought, I'd highly recommend "Modern Macroeconomics" by Snowdon & Vane, but again it's MACROeconomics.
I'm reading it right now, and it's very good. It discusses in detail the most important theories since Keynes.

zaiguo
10-27-2010, 06:48 PM
I would also go for The Worldly Philosophers--we're using it right now in the Macro class I TA for, and all of the students find it very digestible. It's a very well-written book, although I think some of his inclusions/exclusions are questionable.

OneMoreEcon
10-27-2010, 09:12 PM
"A Brief History of Economics" by E. Ray Canterbery is very good, especially if you have a dry sense of humor. He has recently published an extended 3-volume series called "The Making of Economics." The first part came out a few years ago and was also very good, but I haven't had a chance to read the two recent volumes. Very readable, and makes "the dismal science" seem far less dismal.

However, if you're looking for a more popular or "classic," then go for Heilbroner.

SlowLearner38
10-27-2010, 10:26 PM
If you are interested in history of macroeconomic thought, I'd highly recommend "Modern Macroeconomics" by Snowdon & Vane, but again it's MACROeconomics.
I'm reading it right now, and it's very good. It discusses in detail the most important theories since Keynes.

I have the 1995 publication of this book, called "A Modern Guide to Macroeconomics" by Snowdon, Vane & Wynarczyk. It's a bit cheaper on Amazon and the content seems to be basically the same. I hate macroeconomics, but found this to be an interesting read.

norules4suresh
10-28-2010, 04:29 AM
Sorry if I sound insane but can anyone read these sort of books or just economics students?

oleador
10-28-2010, 05:14 AM
Sorry if I sound insane but can anyone read these sort of books or just economics students?

Well, it would be better to have some familiarity with the theories before you study how they evolve. For example, I don't think I would understand "The Worldly Philosophers" well if I hadn't study any economics before.

zaiguo
10-29-2010, 03:07 AM
Well, it would be better to have some familiarity with the theories before you study how they evolve. For example, I don't think I would understand "The Worldly Philosophers" well if I hadn't study any economics before.

Really? Like I said before, we have first-semester macro students read it, and have gotten really good responses to it. Students understand it much better than the original texts.

The only thing is that it gets to Keynes, then discusses Schumpeter...and then ends, completely skipping Friedman, which is mainly what I meant when I said he made questionable exclusions, so if you want to learn about economic history after them, you're going to have to buy another book. He also bizarrely includes the utopian socialists, who not only were not economists, but were also pretty tangential to the development of society as a whole.

Zomb1
10-29-2010, 12:26 PM
I would have to disagree with you. I don't think Friedman, who is of course immensely important for the development of economics, fits well into the narrative of the book. You have to keep in mind when the book was conceived.

On the other hand I think the utopian socialists fit rather well to explain the sentiment of the times and the problems with the early capitalism that the society faced. It puts Marx into the perspective of his times. Actually, I think this is one of the best aspects of this book - that it puts great economists and their work into the right perspective. Today, we often tend to discount older thinkers as silly men, I mean just think of Malthus! What this book is good at is explaining to the reader that these thinkers were responding to the problems of their times and were offering answers that were remarkably smart and correct. If they look silly now, maybe it's not because they were wrong, but because people and the society have changed.

oleador
10-29-2010, 06:56 PM
Really? Like I said before, we have first-semester macro students read it, and have gotten really good responses to it. Students understand it much better than the original texts.


I was not saying that the book is impossible to comprehend without knowing some economics. I was replying to norules4suresh, and I meant that it would be easier to understand it if you already know some economic theory. You just have a more profound feeling of the story in the book.

I read it after finishing my BA, and I found it very helpful that I already had known most of the theories discussed there (but I had known little about their history and about people behind them).

rthunder27
11-15-2010, 05:05 PM
I would also recommend "More Heat than Light" by Mirowski, which traces the development of economics and how intertwined it is with the development of physics. Be warned though, it is very critical of neo-classical economics and points out numerous conceptual flaws in things we economist take for granted, so it may cause some consternation/anger.

mrdon
11-15-2010, 05:27 PM
I liked Spiegel, The Growth of Economic Thought

Rhodri
03-10-2011, 12:50 AM
Heilbroner's is definitely the most accessible, and if you're going to read 1 book, that'd be the place to start. Hunt's is probably the best, but substantially more technical. If you're keen to roll your sleeves back and dive in, I'd recommend pairing the two. Match the chapters and then read Heilbroner's for background information and Hunt's for more technical economic analysis.

As far as Friedman et al go, to missquote Bolaņo: "one should read [Sraffa] more."

fp3690
03-10-2011, 04:58 AM
If you're into financial econ history definitely check "The Myth of the Rational Market" by Justin Fox.

ssch
03-10-2011, 07:17 AM
"Classical Economics" by Samuel Hollander is a good one and is also accessible.

bbking34
03-10-2011, 10:45 AM
How markets fail - John Cassidy.
Best book...every view, every school of thought, evolution of the subject ..all from a modern view (till 2008) yet addressing the context of the time, including the autobiogs of big people in the history of economics and how and why they ended up as who they are.

rthunder27
03-10-2011, 01:35 PM
I'll second both Myth of the Rational Market and How Markets Fail. They're both quite good, and cover a lot of the same territory (I think Myth came out slightly earlier, and when How came out Fox commented on his blog that Cassidy covered some areas he wished he had). They differ mainly in their structure, in that Myth is almost purely chronological, while How Markets Fail is organized by topic.

eds
03-10-2011, 08:39 PM
Galbrith's old text is always cited!

HeyNomad
03-11-2011, 07:07 PM
I'll keep adding to the thread because, well, why not? I like HET.

It really has to depend on what you're looking for. I agree that Heilbroner's Worldly Philosophers is a great intro to the subject, but not that substantial if you're coming to it already a little familiar with economics (as I was when I first read it).

E. K. Hunt definitely stakes out a position--or at least you can really tell what his interests and priorities are--but I'd call his Critical Perspectives the best comprehensive review of the development of economics from a radical perspective.

Samuel Hollander (in his general histories and his more focused studies of individual economists) is amazing but very dense and, in my opinion, not such a great or clear writer.

It’s a little less comprehensive than some of those above, but I highly recommend Maurice Dobb’s Theories of Value and Distribution Since Adam Smith. Unlike, say, Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis—which is an excellent history of economic theoretical technique—Theories of Value and Distribution starts with a discussion of economics as social theory and incorporates methodological considerations. Really exciting and brilliant.

For those interested in something shorter and/or more specialized, there are a lot of interesting little pieces out there. Piero Sraffa’s introduction to the Collected Works of David Ricardo is a really instructive exercise in HET. George Stigler’s comments on Ricardo (e.g., “The 93% Labor Theory of Value,” which can be found here and there) are a fascinating counterpoint.

Whew! OK, I know no one cares about it that much. I’ll stop now!