Note to self: I really need to rethink and expand this. I have the sense that there are absolutely dazzling and important insights back there somewhere that did not make it out of my brain when I wrote:
J. Bradford DeLong (2005), "Sisyphus as Social Democrat," _ From Foreign Affairs, _ (May/June): Review of Richard Parker (2005), John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005, 820 pp. $35.00.
Summary: John Kenneth Galbraith's dazzling career as an economist and public intellectual has left an oddly thin legacy. A new biography sets out to explain why -- tracing, in the process, the rise and fall of twentieth-century American liberalism.
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley.
If there were justice in the world, John Kenneth Galbraith would rank as the twentieth century's most influential American economist. He has published several books that are among the best analyses of modern U.S. history, played a key role in midcentury policymaking, and advised more presidents and senators than would seem possible in three lifetimes. Yet today, Galbraith's influence on economics is small, and his influence on U.S. politics is receding by the year.
In this lively and thoughtful biography, Richard Parker sets himself the task of explaining Galbraith's career: why it was so dazzling, and why its long-term impact has turned out to be so much less than expected. The result is not only the story of a smart, witty, and important man, but also a fascinating meditation on the rise and fall of twentieth-century American liberalism...