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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

An “outstanding new intellectual biography of John Maynard Keynes [that moves] swiftly along currents of lucidity and wit” (The New York Times), illuminating the world of the influential economist and his transformative ideas

“A timely, lucid and compelling portrait of a man whose enduring relevance is always heightened when crisis strikes.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Named One of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly and One of the Best Books of the Year by Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times The Economist • Bloomberg Mother Jones

At the dawn of World War I, a young academic named John Maynard Keynes hastily folded his long legs into the sidecar of his brother-in-law’s motorcycle for an odd, frantic journey that would change the course of history. Swept away from his placid home at Cambridge University by the currents of the conflict, Keynes found himself thrust into the halls of European treasuries to arrange emergency loans and packed off to America to negotiate the terms of economic combat. The terror and anxiety unleashed by the war would transform him from a comfortable obscurity into the most influential and controversial intellectual of his day - a man whose ideas still retain the power to shock in our own time.

Keynes was not only an economist but the preeminent anti-authoritarian thinker of the twentieth century, one who devoted his life to the belief that art and ideas could conquer war and deprivation. As a moral philosopher, political theorist, and statesman, Keynes led an extraordinary life that took him from intimate turn-of-the-century parties in London’s riotous Bloomsbury art scene to the fevered negotiations in Paris that shaped the Treaty of Versailles, from stock market crashes on two continents to diplomatic breakthroughs in the mountains of New Hampshire to wartime ballet openings at London’s extravagant Covent Garden. 

Along the way, Keynes reinvented Enlightenment liberalism to meet the harrowing crises of the twentieth century. In the United States, his ideas became the foundation of a burgeoning economics profession, but they also became a flash point in the broader political struggle of the Cold War, as Keynesian acolytes faced off against conservatives in an intellectual battle for the future of the country - and the world. Though many Keynesian ideas survived the struggle, much of the project to which he devoted his life was lost. 

In this riveting biography, veteran journalist Zachary D. Carter unearths the lost legacy of one of history’s most fascinating minds. The Price of Peace revives a forgotten set of ideas about democracy, money, and the good life with transformative implications for today’s debates over inequality and the power politics that shape the global order.

©2020 Zachary D. Carter (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Zachary D. Carter has given us an important, resonant, and memorable portrait of one of the chief architects of the world we’ve known, and know still. As Richard Nixon observed, we’re all Keynesians now - even if we don’t realize it. Carter’s powerful book will surely fix that.” (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hope of Glory)

“With an eye for the apt phrase and the telling detail, Zachary D. Carter has written a thoughtful and sweeping biography of Keynes and his ideas, extending through the 20th century and into our own time. Carter gives life to the effortless brilliance, frank appetites, and ethical commitments that made Keynes and Keynesianism so immensely consequential in philosophy, art, money, politics, letters, and war. The Price of Peace is a terrific book about a fascinating character.” (Eric Rauchway, author of Winter War)

The Price of Peace is a towering achievement. Carter blends a nuanced and sophisticated financial history of the twentieth century with the intimate personal drama and political upheaval of an epic novel.....A masterful biography of a unique and complex social thinker.” (Stephanie Kelton, author of The Deficit Myth

What listeners say about The Price of Peace

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Great read, if missing a few key points/opinions

Unquestionably thorough detail of Keynes.

One of the great thinkers of the 20th century, this work is an important look at his life, contributions to economics, and perhaps more importantly, his philosophy on democratic rule.

My only complaint would be that the end of the book is somewhat opinionated. Whereas most of this read is informed by the opinions of great economic thinkers, the last two chapters are essentially the author’s point of view with little else. He seems to fail to understand a basic principle of economics, in that decisions must be made in a setting of scarcity and incomplete information.

There is no mention to the fact that the Obama administration spent a significant amount of political capital passing the ACA, making it more difficult for them to bail out homeowners in addition to banks. This type of prisoners dilemma is faced by all administrations, though the author seems to think that they can have their cake and eat it too.

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Fascinating and wonderful story!!

Very well written and very well read. Memorable and perfect for our times.
I did not expect this biography to give such insight; well worth the time!

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  • Shelley
  • 2020-10-27

An uncritical analysis.

The first several hours were good, putting the English economy in the context of the world's issues. However, the author seemed to posit that Keynes was right and everyone else in the world did not understand his grand vision. After the death of Keynes, the author threw in all sorts of irrelevant stories about his heroes and kept going back to the American "Red Scare" with no sense of chronology. The last four hours should have been edited. His last chapter was all praise for Keynes vision with little critical appraisal. The author's comments about Bush, Obama and Trump did not consider the small problem that they had to face political issues. After all, Keynes was never elected to anything and was appointed to lofty positions due to his position in the British old boys club. The UK was a colonial, racist and royalist enterprise which he promoted and wanted all Brits to accept his culture, music, and sensibilities. He was a fine example of the entitlement that public intellectuals possess.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-06-02

A must read for post COVID-19 crisis

Keynes philosophy of solving economic challenges still applies to current crisis, choosing between tolerable and not intolerable, making the best decision for vast majority instead of saving the 0.1% most rich population.

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  • Guilherme Matos
  • 2020-08-09

A must read

I heard about this biography on Wondery’s Tides of History, a podcast narrated by Patrick Wyman, and I was very happy with this purchase. The colorful life of John Maynard Keynes and his motivations to write his extensive and important work were very well detailed in the pages of this book. Keynes’ theory is arguably the most important development in Economics to this day and I think Carter does it justice in the pages of this book. Keynes was a visionary man; his vision should inspire the future generations of Social Scientists and his ideals need to be carried on.

The only reason why I couldn’t give a full 5-star review is the pamphleteer character of its final few chapters detailing the historical developments post Keynes’ death. Economics, as any Social Science, cannot be described in absolute terms, and the author seems in many situations to assign wholly negative events to theories that compete with Keynesianism and neglects the shortcomings of Keynes’ and his intellectual disciples’ work. Carter presents a very one-sided view of History. Biases are normal and mostly welcome, but not to the extent that the post-Keynes chapters presents. The author also very meticulously highlights flaws and political mistakes by Keynes’s rivals while only bringing up once, and briefly (on Joan Robinson’s case), the authoritarian and illiberal side of some of his own ideological allies.

I understand that we are living through hard times with extremely disagreeable Heads of Government, but the final few chapters almost ruined the book for me. “The Price of Peace”, however, still is an extremely good book and I do recommend it to anyone who wishes to understand a little bit better the character of John Maynard Keynes, the motivations behind his wonderful work, and the economic developments of the 20th Century.

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  • James Messelbeck
  • 2020-07-04

sweeping comprehensive in depth and scope

Just the right balance of personal perspective of Keynes and his disciples - even those who were not devotees get fair treatment. Story well paced and delivered. I was pleased to learn, as the story extends beyond Keynes' life, how is devotees applied his principles to changes in global affairs.
I would have improved on the narrow Anglo-American experience where Keynes principles were applied in other countries.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-04-22

Terrific, vigorous examination

Who ever thought that economic history could be examined with such passion? The author goes big, encompassing a lot, and succeeds brilliantly. Excellent performance by Petkoff as well - tears swelled in my eyes in the chapter Keynes dies. I’m going to follow both author and performer.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-04-01

Brilliant biography of a great charactet

Whether or not you are a keynesian this storey of keynes and his ideas set against the broad sweep of history from the Versailles conference to Obama and the influence of economists and economic choices is well worth the read.

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  • John
  • 2021-03-28

anyone that wishes to understand economics.

this book can be thought of having two parts. The first is about John Maynard Keynes, the second is about his economic legacy. The two parts flow together seamlessly, and i can't recommend this book enough. The amazing thing about this book is that it shows how inextricably linked the economy is to politics and this is why economics is so hard.

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  • NM to NY
  • 2021-03-22

vital reading for today

first half a compelling biography of an undisputed genius; second half an explanation of how modern economic theory got us into the mess we're in today. must-read.

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  • Christoph
  • 2021-03-15

excellent, informative

great book, I found both the personal life of Keynes and the ideological conflicts in the wake of his life fascinating. narration was perfect.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-03-13

Brilliant Book, Brilliant Narration

One of the best and most fascinating books I've ever listened to, read aloud by someone who can truly bring the words to life.