Robert Skidelsky's John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain completes a remarkable biography. No other biographer of Keynes is likely to surpass it, and everyone who has an interest in the intellectual and public life of this country is in Skidelsky's debt. This third volume starts in 1937, where the second volume left off. It might have been better had that volume finished with the publication of the The General Theory in 1936, rather than, as it did, with the debate over The General Theory. It ended, as a result, on rather an anti-climactic note (though that is anything but the tone of the book as a whole), since the debate was both indeterminate and, from Keynes's point of view, unsatisfactory. Keynes, though he participated in the debate, was oddly detached, seeming at times not to see its significance to the argument of The General Theory. He took six months - astonishing, as Skidelsky points out, in one normally so punctilious in his correspondence - to respond to John Hicks's famous reformulation of that argument, and did so in an offhand manner. Either he hadn't grasped what Hicks was suggesting (which seems improbable) or else he didn't wish to grasp it; to have done so would have been to acquiesce in a 'Keynesianism' interpreted via the (mild) heresies of Hicks, James Meade and Roy Harrod rather than via the true belief of Richard Kahn or Joan Robinson. In any event, Keynes made no further important theoretical contribution to economics. The running was left to others.
LRB 8 February 2001 | PDF Download