Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Capitalist Revolutionary

Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes

Roger E. Backhouse
Bradley W. Bateman
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Capitalist Revolutionary
    Book Description:

    The 2008 recession restored Keynes to prominence. This account elaborates the misinformation that led to his repeated resurrection and interment since his death in 1946. Keynes was more open-minded about capitalism than is commonly believed, and his nuanced views offer an alternative to the polarized rhetoric evoked by the word “capitalism” today.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06284-9
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-20)

    Following the financial crisis of September 2008 when the American investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, threatening to engulf the entire banking system, the British economist John Maynard Keynes returned to center stage. In the popular press and in the writings of many economists, Keynes featured prominently as governments around the world urgently sought ways to avoid economic collapse. In the United States, the New York Times contained articles titled “What would Keynes have done?” (October 28, 2008), “The old economist, relevant amid the rubble” (September 18, 2009), and “An old master back in fashion” (November 1, 2009). Likewise, in Britain...

    (pp. 21-46)

    For good or for ill, Keynesian economics is often argued to have transformed economic policymaking in the industrial democracies after the Great Depression. At one time, it was common to refer to Keynes as “the man who saved capitalism” during the Great Depression. The gist of this story is that in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, Keynes provided a revolutionary analysis of how capitalist economies worked, completely rejecting over a hundred years of “classical” economic theorizing by showing how fiscal policy could be used to maintain a high level of employment; and that politicians...

  5. 3 KEYNES THE MORAL PHILOSOPHER: Confronting the Challenges to Capitalism
    (pp. 47-76)

    Keynes was born, on June 5, 1883, into the Victorian era. It was close to seventy years since the end of the last major European war, and during this period the British economy had expanded enormously, Britain having become the workshop of the world. Britain was the center of the largest empire the world had ever seen—one on which the sun never set. It was an era of confidence, prosperity, and stability. During the Edwardian era, which began with Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, seeds of change were sown: it saw the Boer War, suffragettes, the rise of the...

  6. 4 KEYNES THE PHYSICIAN: Developing a Theory of a Capitalist Economy
    (pp. 77-112)

    Had Keynes been simply a philosopher who offered a moral critique of capitalism, his influence would have been a tiny fraction of what it was. His reputation arose because he developed a theory of how capitalist economies worked that could be used to explain why they had failed so catastrophically in the 1930s and what might be done about it. However, Keynes approached this task not as a conventional academic, writing learned tomes and articles in specialist journals aimed solely at his fellow economists, but also as a journalist and businessman. The financial success of The Economic Consequences of the...

    (pp. 113-138)

    Keynes was never a humble man. To the contrary, he had great confidence in his ability and deliberately thrust himself into the center of debates about economic policy; he had great confidence in his own views (including the confidence openly to change his mind), and he enjoyed stirring up controversy. In 1914 his return to government service happened because, when he learned about the debates that were taking place over how to respond to the developing international financial crisis, he rushed to London (not even waiting for the next train, but persuading a friend to take him on a motorcycle)...

    (pp. 139-160)

    In 2008–09 the world’s financial system came close to collapse, raising the prospect of an uncontrollable fall into depression: it looked as though it might be 1929 all over again. The policies that had supported “the great moderation” of the previous two decades were suddenly irrelevant: the world needed new policies urgently, and it turned to Keynes, or rather to the economist it believed was Keynes. Low interest rates and fiscal stimulus were policies straight out of the Keynesian lexicon—and they worked. Keynes, the economist whose theories had apparently been discredited by the experiences of the 1970s and...

    (pp. 161-174)

    In the opening sentences of the Introduction to his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes wrote, “This book is chiefly addressed to my fellow economists. I hope it will be intelligible to others.” Our ambition was exactly the opposite. We wrote this book for a general audience, hoping that it would also speak to our fellow economists. As we have tried to make clear, Keynes was initially generous in supporting many different interpreters of his work; and during the last decade of his life he did not try to close down debates over Keynesian economics by offering a...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 175-178)
    (pp. 179-186)
    (pp. 187-188)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 189-197)