Yet indigenous innovation and flourishing weakened decades ago. In America, evidence indicates that innovation and job satisfaction have decreased since the late 1960s, while postwar Europe has never recaptured its former dynamism. The reason, Phelps argues, is that the modern values underlying the modern economy are under threat by a resurgence of traditional, corporatist values that put the community and state over the individual. The ultimate fate of modern values is now the most pressing question for the West: will Western nations recommit themselves to modernity, grassroots dynamism, indigenous innovation, and widespread personal fulfillment, or will we go on with a narrowed innovation that limits flourishing to a few?
A book of immense practical and intellectual importance, Mass Flourishing is essential reading for anyone who cares about the sources of prosperity and the future of the West.
Edmund Phelps was the 2006 Nobel Laureate in economics. He is director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University. His many books include Designing Inclusion,
Rewarding Work, and Seven Schools of Macroeconomic Thought.
The primary theme concerns the development of economic thought as this emerged in the various continental traditions including the Islamic tradition. These continental traditions differed substantially, both substantively and methodologically, from the Anglo-Saxon orientation that has been dominant in the last century for example in the study of public finance or the very construct of the state itself. This books maps the various channels of continental economics, particularly from the late-18th through the early-20th centuries, explaining and demonstrating the underlying unity amid the surface diversity. In particular, the book emphasizes the writings of John Stuart Mill, his predecessor David Ricardo and his follower Jeremy Bentham; the theory of Marginalism by von Thünen, Cournot, and Gossen; the legacy of Karl Marx; the innovations in developmental economics by Friedrich List; the economic and monetary contributions and “struggle of escape” by John Maynard Keynes; the formidable theory in public finance and economics by Joseph Schumpeter; a reinterpretation of Alfred Marshall; Léon Walras, Heinrich von Stackelberg, Knut Wicksell, Werner Sombart, and Friedrich August von Hayek are each dealt with in their own right.
Akerlof and Shiller reassert the necessity of an active government role in economic policymaking by recovering the idea of animal spirits, a term John Maynard Keynes used to describe the gloom and despondence that led to the Great Depression and the changing psychology that accompanied recovery. Like Keynes, Akerlof and Shiller know that managing these animal spirits requires the steady hand of government--simply allowing markets to work won't do it. In rebuilding the case for a more robust, behaviorally informed Keynesianism, they detail the most pervasive effects of animal spirits in contemporary economic life--such as confidence, fear, bad faith, corruption, a concern for fairness, and the stories we tell ourselves about our economic fortunes--and show how Reaganomics, Thatcherism, and the rational expectations revolution failed to account for them.
Animal Spirits offers a road map for reversing the financial misfortunes besetting us today. Read it and learn how leaders can channel animal spirits--the powerful forces of human psychology that are afoot in the world economy today. In a new preface, they describe why our economic troubles may linger for some time--unless we are prepared to take further, decisive action.