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The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith

Richard P. F. Holt (Southern Oregon University)



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Cambridge University Press
17 April 2017
The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith invites readers to join in conversations with presidents and first ladies, diplomats and schoolchildren, the McCarthy 'loyalty board', foreign heads of state and fellow economists, and a host of other correspondents. In his long and cosmopolitan life, Galbraith wrote thousands of letters, and Richard P. F. Holt has selected the most important of these from his archival research, now available in print for the first time. The letters provide an intimate account of the three main political goals to which Galbraith devoted his professional life: ending war, fighting poverty, and improving quality of life by achieving a balance between private and public goods in an affluent capitalist society. Showing his thoughtful insights and charming wit, this collection confirms Galbraith as a man of broad learning, superb literary skills, and deeply held progressive ideals.
Edited by:   Richard P. F. Holt (Southern Oregon University)
Imprint:   Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 45mm
Weight:   1.130kg
ISBN:   9781107019881
ISBN 10:   1107019885
Pages:   744
Publication Date:   17 April 2017
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Richard P. F. Holt is a Professor of Economics at Southern Oregon University. He has authored and edited many books, two of which were named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. He has also published more than sixty articles and book reviews in a variety of academic journals, and has served on various editorial boards.

Reviews for The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith

'John Kenneth Galbraith occupied a unique place in American economics: a scholar, a policy advocate, a public official, and a popular author on both the printed page and the television screen. We admired each other and were good friends while both at Harvard. The letters now published reveal the sharp intellect and precision of wording in nailing down personal, political, and economic presentations and exposing cant and imprecision.' Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University, California, and Winner of the 1972 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences 'John Kenneth Galbraith's remarkable life is mirrored in these letters. Witty, always thoughtful, wise, they reflect a humaneness from which our harried age will benefit.' Henry A. Kissinger, former US Secretary of State 'John Kenneth Galbraith prided himself on the quality of his writings and that is apparent in the precision and wit of these letters. Even more than in his published writings, he used irony and humor to skewer the conventional wisdom. What is also striking is the quality of the advice he gave his correspondents - both the powerful and the obscure - and how seldom he was wrong. John Kenneth Galbraith will be remembered for his intellectual and diplomatic achievements but these letters also record extraordinary friendships.' Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith, former US Ambassador to Croatia 'Letter writing is fast becoming a lost art, killed by social media. And that is why Ric Holt's volume is especially welcome and important, preserving the wonderful elegant voice of John Kenneth Galbraith: economist, public intellectual, diplomat, and Harvard professor. After reading this book, all readers will learn, laugh, and emerge more educated.' Henry Rosovsky, Harvard University, Massachusetts 'Economist, public intellectual, adviser to presidents, ambassador to India, liberal activist, Harvard professor, keen observer of politics, John Kenneth Galbraith led a grand and important life. It is fully captured in Ric Holt's superb collection. Herein lie the ideas, passions and recollections of a brilliant man in letters that capture some of the most compelling events and personalities of the twentieth century.' Ellen Fitzpatrick, University of New Hampshire and author of Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy 'John Kenneth Galbraith towered over the twentieth century, literally and intellectually. He gave voice and reason to those wishing to comfort the afflicted and to responsibly afflict the comfortable. These letters give an unparalleled glimpse into an unparalleled life.' Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley 'To receive a letter from Ken Galbraith was a delicious treat, even if it came wrapped in stinging nettles. To read this collection of Galbraith's letters is to replay the political and intellectual history of the United States during the twentieth century. Few Americans knew so many people involved with the country's great currents, or thought so incisively about the great questions of the day, or played so active a role in addressing them. No one wrote about them more engagingly, or with more grace and eloquence and wit.' Benjamin M. Friedman, William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University 'This remarkable collection reveals one of the great American liberals of the 20th century, Ken Galbraith, to be a witty, elegant and wise correspondent with some of his era's most fascinating figures - Presidents, politicians, intellectuals, movie stars and journalists. Galbraith was a brilliant, sometimes playfully irreverent observer, one always committed to his deeply held ideals - a vital participant in the great political and cultural arguments and events of his time.' Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation 'John Kenneth Galbraith's published writing was among the wittiest and best informed ever printed. Happily, his private letters are just as pleasurable and edifying to read. How fortunate that his generation corresponded regularly, and preserved what they wrote. Students of Galbraith and of modern history will appreciate this splendid sample.' Robert Kuttner, Co-Editor, The American Prospect 'The letters, which have an immediacy that no biography can match, provide a wonderful insight into someone who was surely, because of his political involvements if not because of his economics (though I would not want to minimize the importance of some of his work, notably The Affluent Society), one of the most important economists of the post-Second World War era. Like his books of essays, the book is one that can either be read straight through or dipped into, for opening it at random is very likely to yield entertainment and insight. He was a major public figure and this collection of his correspondence helps us to understand why that was the case. Like the economist who might be thought his nemesis, Milton Friedman, with whom he exchanged many letters reproduced here, he was a brilliant communicator, his literary style being a key ingredient in his success and perhaps, in his failure to stem the tide of the conservatism against which he continually fought.' History of Political Economy 'After years of work on Galbraith's 40,000 letters and notes, Richard Holt has produced a very fine selection of documents, introduced by effective, concise notes by Holt that contextualize the letters. Holt's work is all the more interesting because this selection includes not only letters, but also (as my citations from the volume show) many reports and drafts that are attached to Galbraith's correspondence, which add fundamental depth to the volume.' Michele Alacevich, History of Economic Ideas 'Richard P. F. Holt's monumental work to dig up and give chronological consistency to John Kenneth Galbraith's correspondence is a success. This is notably because, on one hand, the book provides a vast majority of unpublished documents and, on the other, addresses a wide range of readers. Furthermore, Holt's numerous comments, serving to put letters into their context, are synthetic and enlightening.' Journal of Economic Issues 'This book is sprinkled with excellent answers to many of the economic and political problems that are often still faced today. On reading this book, I wondered where is the John Kenneth Galbraith equivalent today who will provide presidents and legislators, as well as our economic colleagues, with the advice necessary to make the American economy deliver the prosperity to all its residents that it is capable of providing.' Review of Keynesian Economics

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