1953, Books, Fiction

The Worldly Philosophers (1953, 1999) by Robert L. Heilbroner

The Worldly Philosophers is an impressive and engaging summary of the lives and ideas of the major economists from Adam Smith through Joseph Schumpeter, covering both the people you would expect (Ricardo, Keynes) and some people you would not.

Heilbroner is a refreshing guide because he both has a historical sense of economics and he is not a free market nazi. Moreover, as he makes clear in the final chapter, he shares my doubts about economics as a Science.

Now, I can’t speak to how thoroughly he captures all of these authors’ ideas
– though he does an excellent job with the brief biographies – as I have not read all of them, and the one’s I did read, I read approximately a decade ago, but I must say that I think I trust his interpretations and he presents all these ideas in about as easily digestible a format as you are going to find – certainly more so than a boring textbook.

I would strongly recommend this as an introduction to economic history and theory to anyone, including people whose introduction has been one or two university level courses – which no doubt ignored the history, at least
that’s my experience.

Well worth reading.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Economic Revolution
  3. The Wonderful World of Adam Smith
  4. The Gloomy Presentiments of Parson Malthus and David Ricardo
  5. The Dreams of the Utopian Socialists
  6. The Inexorable System of Karl Marx
  7. The Victorian World and the Underworld of Economics
  8. The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen
  9. The Heresies of John Maynard Keynes
  10. The Contradictions of Joseph Schumpeter
  11. The End of the Worldly Philosophy?
  12. Guide to Further Reading
  13. Notes
  14. Index

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 7 edition (Aug. 10 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068486214X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862149

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