"Fluent and expert"

January 03, 2005

Perhaps only an elephant of a book could cover the life and thinking of so influential a figure as John Kenneth Galbraith (b. 1908) ... Parker, an economist, writes with fluency and expert knowledge ... of everything Galbraith was involved in. And that was much, starting with New Deal Washington, then the post-WWII Strategic Bombing Survey, Harvard, JFK's administration and an ambassadorship to Indiaand, always, liberal Democratic politics. Through it all, Galbraith poured out torrents of never dull writings, of which The Affluent Society best embodies his combination of fresh thought, political acuity and polemical skill. He took on academic and political orthodoxies to transform the way informed people think about the economy, institutions and social justice. Despite its length, Parker's biography is a model of clarity on these matters. The author, who is altogether sympathetic to his subject, never shrinks from offering others' tough, and his own measured, judgments. Galbraith emerges as highly appealing, a man of sparkling wit liked by most of his intellectual opponents and deprecated chiefly by his hard-boiled fellow economists. While they'll long debate his contributions to economics, there's no denying, as this book makes indelibly clear, that Galbraith, has been one of the major American lives of the 20th century. (Feb.)

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