ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Man for All Seasons

John Maynard Keynes, Volume Three, Fighting for Britain 1937- 1946 by Robert Skidelsky; Macmillan, London, 2000; pp 561, price not mentioned

This is the concluding volume of Skidelsky’s Keynes trilogy and is appropriately entitled Fighting for Britain; for these were the years when Churchill fought to preserve Britain and its empire against Nazi Germany and Keynes fought to preserve Britain as a great power against the US. The war against Germany was won; but in helping to win it, Britain lost both empire and greatness. Hence, the title of the concluding volume of Churchill’s war history, Triumph and Tragedy also fits this volume. This is in a sense a history of the second world war from a particular point of view and the approach of the author is that of a historian and not that of an economist. He shows Keynes in action against the historical, political and socio-cultural background; for whatever Keynes said or did cannot be understood without such a historical approach. The author describes in vivid detail Keynes’ encounter with problems and personalities, his extra-curricular activities and his relations with his wife Lydia, his parents and his friends and colleagues.

For the first four years after the publication of the General Theory, Keynes entered into controversy with economists and when the war was imminent he applied his General Theory analytical framework to the problems of inflation; with his anti-inflationary tract How to Pay for the War he showed how his theory could be applied not only to the problem of slump but also to counter inflation. The ‘Keynesian Revolution’ was thus placed on a firm foundation as the author perceptively observes. And with this a Keynesian school formed itself as a genuine sociological entity, namely, a group that professes allegiance to one master and one doctrine. As Schumpeter observes: “There are but two analogous cases in the whole history of economies – the Physiocrats and the Marxists”.1

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