Keynes and the Quest for a Moral Science
A Study of Economics and Alchemy
In this innovative highly readable contribution to the study of Keynes, Wayne Parsons makes a radical departure from the conventional approaches to Keynesian economies. As a political scientist Parsons believes that, if we are to grasp the revolutionary nature of Keynes's way of thinking about policy problems, we need to place his theories in a wider intellectual and inter-disciplinary setting. Keynes, he suggests, was a social scientist, philosopher and opinion-former with one foot in the age of science and another in the age of sorcery. Like Newton, about whom Keynes wrote with considerable knowledge and insight, he was a thinker whose method was rooted in an alchemical fascination with the art of transmutation and the quest for the philosophers' stone. Parsons maintains that unless we appreciate this alchemical quality of Keynes's economics we fail to comprehend his particular genius as a philosopher of possibility. The author paints a portrait of a Bloomsbury Faust, a Mephistopheles in Whitehall: an image which is a long way removed from the modernist discourse which has largely framed our reading of his economics. Free from the mechanistic and positivistic language which has come to obscure his work Wayne Parsons concludes that Keynes can once again become a source of inspiration and illumination for the theory and practice of public policy. Keynes and the Quest for a Moral Science is an accessible, highly readable account which will appeal to scholars and students in the field of economics, history of economics, public policy and history of ideas.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'. . . an interesting and worthwhile addition to the growing literature interpreting the interaction between Keynes the man and Keynes the economist. Parsons's notion of the fundamental importance of Keynes the moral scientist is well done and is the book's major contribution. . . the device of contrasting Keynes the pre-modern (moral) alchemist with Keynes the modernist scientist. . . was both useful and illuminating. . . this book is a very worthy contribution to the understanding of a new approach to Keynesian economics.'--Richard X. Chase, University of Vermont, US