In Universal Man noted biographer and historian Richard Davenport-Hines revives our understanding of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), the 20th century's most charismatic and revolutionary economist.
Keynes helped FDR launch the New Deal, saved Britain from financial crisis twice over the course of two world wars, and instructed Western nations on how to protect themselves from revolutionary unrest, economic instability, high unemployment, and social dissolution. Isaiah Berlin called Keynes "the cleverest man I ever knew" - both "superior and intellectually awe-inspiring". Eric Hobsbawm, the 20th century's preeminent historian, considered him as influential as Lenin, Stalin, Roosevelt, Hitler, Churchill, Gandhi, and Mao. Keynes was nothing less than the Adam Smith of his time: his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, became the most important economics book of the 20th century, as important as Smith's Wealth of Nations in inaugurating an economic era. Keynes' brilliant ideas made possible 35 years of prosperity after the Second World War, the most sustained period of rapid expansion in history. And now, and in the wake of the 2008 global economic collapse, he is once again shaping our world.
Every day we are likely to hear about Keynesian economics or the Keynesian Revolution, terms that testify to his continuing influence on both economic theory and government policies. Indeed, with the thorough discrediting of his opponents - Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and other supporters of the notion that capitalism is self-regulating and needs no government intervention - nations across the world are turning to Keynes's signature innovations: above all that governments must involve themselves in their economies to stave off financial collapse. Previous biographies have explored Keynes' economic thought at great length and often in the jargon of the discipline.
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