Bhaskar Parichha

Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Alfred Marshall, Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, and Nobel Economics  Prize-winners Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, John Forbes Nash Jr, Daniel Kahneman, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz – when life-sketches of all these biggest  names in Economics come on a platter it is bound to evince  more than normal interest. Edited by Jonathan Conlin, senior lecturer in History, University of Southampton, this single accessible volume provides an invaluable guide to the greatest economists of all time whose philosophies have influenced iconic politicians, divided continents, engendered political parties and had remarkable impacts on how we live.

‘Great Economic Thinkers – from Adam Smith to Amartya Sen’ (2018) captures the key beliefs and major theories of thirteen economists, explores their backgrounds, assesses their thinking and evaluates their legacy. It explains the schools of thought named after them and unambiguously shows how they influence our everyday lives. All the economists featured in this brilliant book have had a profound influence on market intervention and regulation, taxation, trade, and monetary policy.

Each of the thirteen contributors, writing in one’s own style, has used his/her erudition in outlining the life history of a particular thinker and the contribution to economic thought. As the blurb says,’ If you’ve ever wanted to find out more about the  foundational concepts  of modern economics –   the invisible hand, Marxism, Keynesianism, creative destruction, behavioral economics, and many others , this collection of essays is the perfect place to start.’

The role played by division of labor, wages and rents, cognitive biases, saving, entrepreneurship, game theory, liberalism, laissez-faire, and welfare economics find vivid description in this 300-page book.Prof.D’Maris Coffman of the Bartlet School of Construction and Project Management,UK  in the Introduction says, ‘what unites these thirteen economists  as Great Economic Thinkers is not their radical projects or their novelty but rather the extent to which they have contributed to the intellectual  furniture of modern economic  thinking.’

What is of significance is that the contributors are from various universities of U.S as well as Europe   and, therefore, this varied participation presents a wholesome appeal to the volume. This book is of enormous value to those who study the history of economic thought, economic theory and philosophy. Free from perplexing lingo and equations, it describes, in an incredibly lucid style, key concepts put forward by these philosophers and shows how they have come to shape societies.

Jonathan Conlin’s sketch on Amartya Sen and that of Emmanuelle Benicourt on Joseph Stigliz -two present-day economists – make for interesting read.Benicourt analyzes Stigliz’s contributions by pronouncing  that the ‘tone he(Stigliz) employs is often far from being cautious or reserved ,contrary to that generally employed by scientists.’ Elsewhere she says that Stigliz has taken a position in favor of precise political measures so as to lessen or contain inequalities whether on the globalized level or in the U.S.

Conlin’s essay on Amartya Sen is both in-depth and comprehensive. He calls Sen (who got the Nobel Prize in 1998 for propounding welfare economics) a ‘devotee of Adam Smith’. He leads us to believe that even after propounding theories Sen doesn’t ‘sit still’ and asks the question persistently ‘what do we do then?’

Both because the contributors (half of them are women) have tried to make the ideas of the great economists remain fresh and imperative for our times and also because of simplification of the complex theories, ‘Great Economic Thinkers’ is a rewarding addition to the existing literature on economic thought .It is an extremely engaging survey of the life and ideas of the big thinkers of economic history. For those who want to revisit the great economists of the past two hundred fifty years, this book is an indispensable read. Speaking Tiger must be congratulated to make this collection available to Indian readers.

Great Economic Thinkers – from Adam Smith to Amartya Sen

Edited by Jonathan Conlin

Speaking Tiger Publishing

4281/4, Ansari Road,Daryaganj

New Delhi -110002

Rs 450

(The reviewer is a senior journalist and Consulting Editor of OdishaLIVE)