Victorian Worthies


Victorian Worthies –
Vanity’s Leaders of Church and State
By Malcolm Johnson
Foreword by Ian Hislop
Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd – £14.99

”Every morning as I stroll to my office at Private Eye in Soho I cut through Cecil Court and outside the second-hand bookshops I stop to look at a display of old prints from Vanity Fair. This is not just to remind myself in a gloomy way that even the best satirical magazines must pass but because the brilliantly-executed caricatures of Victorian celebrities are still so arresting. Who were these extraordinary figures in their top hats and their frock coats? What was going on in their severe-looking heads and why are they still staring out at me so confidently?”

                                                                                                           Ian Hislop

Lest it be said, it makes a nice change for religion and the trajectory thereof, to be seen, considered, or at least written about as ‘fun.’

In this terribly heartbreaking age of killing in the name of religion, Victorian Worthies – Vanity’s Leaders of Church and State, does indeed make for a refreshing and equally inviting change. Its collection of fifty of the most renowned caricatures (of leading figures) in Victorian Britain, are herein reproduced in fine colour; along with an approximate four-to-six-hundred word synopsis of who and what they were all about.

From William Ewart Gladstone (”were he a worse man, he would be a better statesman”) to The Marquis of Salisbury (”he is too honest a Tory for his Party and his Time”) to Alfred Lord Tennyson (”It has become fashionable to doubt his genius and to deprecate his works but he remains unquestionably what the public voice has long pronounced him, the first poet of our day”); this most jovial of hardback books is something of a light-hearted pleasure to behold.

In the words of The Revd Richard Coles: ”Malcolm Johnson has skilfully recovered these caricaturists from the magazine rack of history.”

In so deftly doing, Johnson has ensured these 225 pages (excluding Hislop’s Foreword, Postscript and Bibliography) are a full-on, risible reason, for the reader to be wholly transported back to another time. And place.

”As none of these Victorians probably said at the time, ‘Enjoy.”’

David Marx

The Essential Goethe


The Essential Goethe
Edited by Matthew Bell
Princeton University Press – £27.95

He was committed to empirical observation, but he disliked the mental and physical apparatus that accompanied science: contrived experimental conditions, doctrinaire theoretical models, and arid mathematical methods, as he saw them. His allergy to the formal scientific method limited his progress but also inspired some of his more interesting ideas.

The above, rather like much of this inviting and at times, complex anthology of one of Europe’s most influential thinkers and writers, reads like a modern day assimilation of the most acute comprehension. It’s as if Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, perhaps the most profound artist of the German Romantic period, were waxing lyrical only yesterday – for such is the translation, not to mention the interpretation of (t)his vast body of work.

And what an unquestionably vast, cohesive and pertinent body of work it continues to remain. As given its sheer dexterity and enormity, is what fundamentally accounts for the work itself successfully alluding to the fact that The Essential Goethe is a one-off.

A one-off, definitive representation like no other.

One of the prime reasons being, it provides English language readers with easier access than ever before, to the widest range of work by ”one of the greatest writers in world history.” Amid these 1007 pages, Goethe’s work as a poet, a playwright, a novelist and an autobiographer, is more than confidently and comprehensively revisited by Matthew Bell – himself a Professor of German and Comparative Literature at King’s College, London, whose previous books include Goethe’s Naturalistic Anthropology and Melancholia: The Western Malady.

As he has written in the book’s Introduction: ” The volume has been produced first and foremost with the general reader in mind, though we hope it will also prove useful for students of European and comparative literature, where Goethe is an important but often inaccessible figure. Readers will find many of Goethe’s canonical works here.”

Indeed, from ‘Selected Poems’ to the Shakespearianesque Egmont (translated by Michael Hamburger), from Faust. A Tragedy (translated by John R. Williams) to the second of Goethe’s novels, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; from ‘On Literature and Art’ (which includes ‘Shakespeare: A Tribute (1771),’ ‘Simple Imitation, Manner, Style (1789),’ ‘Response to a Literary Rabble-Rouser (1795),’ ‘Winckelmann and His Age (1805)’) to ‘On Philosophy and Science’ (which among others, includes ‘A ‘Study on Spinoza (c. 1785),’ ‘Observation on Morphology in General (c. 1795),’ ‘The Influence of Modern Philosophy (1817),’ ‘Colours in the Sky (1817-20),’ ‘Problems (1823),’ ‘Analysis and Synthesis (c. 1829)’ and ‘A More Intense Chemical Activity in Primordial Matter (1826)’); this utterly breath-taking appreciation, can only be described as something to behold, appreciate and what’s more, be inspired by.

Where else might one read: ”For all that he abhorred chaos, he knew it could be creative. For an opponent of the revolution, he invested a remarkable amount of creative energy into trying to come to terms with it. What alienated Goethe most from his fellow Germans was the advent of Napoleon, whom Goethe admired and the young generation of German nationalists demonized. But Goethe had long since abandoned any thoughts of German nationhood or even a unified national culture. After Italy, Europe and the wider world mattered more to him.”

Whether ‘drunk on exaltation’ or ‘brimming [with] tears’ amid ‘the mordant storm,’ the Frankfurt-Am-Main born Goethe, was a both a poet and a philosopher of pristine brilliance and, given the era, urgency; a facet I believe the opening quote of this review rather substantiates.

There again: ”Like his father, Goethe took academic study and scholarship very seriously, and both were avid art collectors. Goethe was well read in art history and aesthetics, philosophy, theology, and science. He firmly believed that any creative work, even the very direct and life-orientated poetry that is one of his hallmarks, had to be informed by ideas from these fields; in this broad sense he was a determinedly philosophical writer. This is the Goethe whom the reader will meet in these pages: a lover, a thinker, a scholar, a practical man, a controversialist, a writer of very diverse moods and urges.”

David Marx

The Irish Enlightenment


The Irish Enlightenment
By Michael Brown
Harvard University Press – £25.00/$39.95

The poor creatures we meet in the streets seem to know the avenue to the humane breast better than our philosophers.
Francis Hutcheson – ‘Reflections on the Common Systems of Morality,’ 1724

Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us, that nothing is great or little other wise than by comparison.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, 1726

Broken into three very distinct parts (The Religious Enlightenment, 1688-ca. 1730, The Social Enlightenment, ca. 1730-ca. 1760 and The Political Enlightenment, ca. 1760-1798), Michael Brown has herein written a book that is commendable, even if just for the introduction and reiteration of just how fractured Irish society was and, perhaps until recently, remains: ”The Irish Enlightenment opened up the possibility of a tolerant society, but it was short-lived. Divisions concerning methodological commitments to Empiricism and rationalism resulted in an increasingly antagonistic conflict over questions of religious inclusion.”

At 472 pages (excluding a very considerable selection of Notes, Acknowledgements and Index), this vast canvas of a book covers an even wider terrain of the Irish Enlightenment within that of its rather dexterous depth of complexity. A partial reckoning of which is (somewhat) addressed at the very outset of the book’s Introduction, where Brown quotes James Arbuckle: ”Many of our gentry seem to think learning not only a needless but an impertinent qualification; and it has been made a remark that the state of conversation among us is such as to require a well-furnished wine cellar much more than a library for its support.” (The Tribune, Dublin, 1729).

At the vanguard of this hefty book is a move to a more peripheral, national, and Atlantic Enlightenment, while its twin ambition is to reconstruct the role(s) of Irish thinkers, writers, and actors, all of whom invariably played significant parts within the Enlightenment project (and delineated an explicitly Irish Enlightenment). Thereby, situating the country’s intellectual heritage within the wider context of British, as well as European and Atlantic history.

In all, this is a more than cohesive book that never takes its eye off the literary ball, which, given the era it covers, could well have been so easy to do within the hands of a less gifted writer. There again, Michael Brown is Chair of Irish, Scottish and Enlightenment History at the University of Aberdeen – so it ought hardly be surprising that The Irish Enlightenment makes for such incisive and well constructed reading.

Each of its nine chapters (from ‘The Presbyterian Enlightenment and the Nature of Man’ to ‘Languages of Civility’ to ‘Communities of Interest’ to the final chapter, ‘An Enlightened Civil War’), does in some way or another, make for a veritable vortex of surprisingly enlightened reasoning itself – the outcome of which, can at times, be more entertaining than informative. For instance, in the aforementioned sixth chapter,’ ‘Community of Interest,’ Brown writes: ”Club life constituted the central praxis of the Enlightenment. It institutionalised the debate that emerged in mid-century concerning how Ireland might best meet the challenges of dearth and was the outcome of a public sphere that emerged in the salons, coffeehouses, taverns, and theatres of Irish society. The club was an ambition and a location; an agenda and a rendezvous. Clubs provided the Enlightenment with a means of determining and implementing a course of action. They provided the Enlightenment with social capital, bringing together unrelated actors for shared, commonly nonpolitical, ends.”

A segment of writing, prefaced by quoting Laurence Dermott:

Whilst thus in unity we join,
Our hearts still good and true;
Inspired by the grace divine,
And no base ends in view;
We friendly meet, ourselves employ,
To improve the fruitful mind;
With blessings which can never cloy
But dignify mankind.

(Song XLII, Ahiman Rezon: Or, A Help to All that Are (or Would Be) Free and Accepted Masons, 1764).

Perhaps like the Enlightenment itself, one never really knows where one is going to end up within the pages of The Irish Enlightenment; which in and of itself, ensures that all and any assumptions, if not foregone conclusions, are to be readily and wholeheartedly left to one side.

David Marx

Orwell’s Faded Lion


Orwell’s Faded Lion
The Moral Atmosphere of Britain 1945 – 2015
By Anthony James
Imprint Academic £14.95/$29.90

The later consequences of the Bush and Blair invasion of Iraq became clear in June 2014. The extreme group ISIS had conquered and occupied large swathes of Iraq, showing themselves to be considerably more ferocious, murderous and ruthless towards many Iraqis than Saddam Hussein had ever been, as well as a potentially far greater danger to the West. Tony Blair’s own self-justifying comments on this development were puerile and detached from reality. The one thing that Blair could never admit is how much the original American-British invasion had fuelled support for ISIS.

(‘Who Controls The Past Controls The Future’).

Having reviewed a number of books on Tony Blair over the years, I’ve always found myself being inadvertently confined to his way of thinking. To be sure, I’ve always found the tentacles of his varying in depth arguments and interviews inherently far reaching. Not to mention plausible, believable and down-right influential.

No wonder he made for such a superlative politician.

Lest it be said that to certain a degree, the former Prime Minister still knows how to cajole and hold-court; which is just one of the many, many reasons, why I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Orwell’s Faded Lion – The Moral Atmosphere of Britain 1945-2015 by Anthony James, is a tough, gritty, honest and at times, bleak overview of Britain’s political morass since the end of the Second World War. Although what accounts for its most readable quality (I couldn’t help but read the entire book in the best part of two sittings), is its clear and concise, rightful apprehension of the truth.

There’s no woolly, flim-flam, thank-you-mam approach to that of it’s political endeavour. Like George Orwell himself, hence the title, these 148 pages pack a super-suave punch, right into the smug and superfluous face of spin and impeccable lies.

For where else in this soulless day and overtly jaded age of social implosion, would you read: ”[..] with adult memories of Britain before 1979, I find it difficult as a parent to convey fully to my daughter […] the depth and scale of the changes in British society, many of which have turned out to be permanent and irreversible […] Britain after Mrs. Thatcher has been radically different and considerably worse and has not shown any sign yet that it can escape from the mould she imposed upon it […]. Her revolution, like all revolutions, was driven by an idea: you run the affairs of a country (it is not appropriate to say ‘society,’ the existence of which she denied) like a business, according to the instincts of businessmen and businesswomen […]. Although Mrs Thatcher lacked any understanding of the Marxism she hated, Karl Marx had given an enduring description of the spirit of her revolution in The Communist Manifesto, almost a century and a half earlier.

[Capitalism] has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. ‘It has resolved personal worth into exchange value… In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”

(‘Who Controls The Past Controls The Future’).

Each of this books five chapters are grounded in such unwavering writing(s) as that above, which, regardless of political persuasion, makes for a thunder-bolt of an awakening call.

One of the most compact and satisfying of reads so far this year (I can’t wait for the sequel).

David Marx

Representing Auschwitz


Representing Auschwitz
At the Margins of Testimony
Edited by Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams
Palgrave Macmillan – £58.00

Purgatory is represented by the Soviet Union’s labour camps, where neglect is combined with chaotic forced labour. Hell in the most literal sense was embodied by those types of camp perfected by the Nazis, in which the whole of life was thoroughly and systematically organized with a view to the greatest possible torment.

(Nikolaus Wachsmann, The Nazi Concentration Camps in International Context: Comparisons and Connections, Palgrave Macmillan).

Having recently watched the outstanding Hungarian epic, Son Of Saul (directed by Laszlo Nemes), which has since been nominated for countless awards – including Best Foreign Language Film 2016 – I was in a position, if only for a mini-micro second, to read this book with an iota of up to date sound and vision. Both aspects of which – for all their colourful, grainy, shouting-celluloid-hell of a living/breathing, Hieronymous Boschesque depiction of the end of the world – gave an inkling of understanding as to what it must have been like.

To have experienced the utterly incomprehensible, cruel degradation of a Nazi concentration camp.

And there is no better example of said incomprehension than Auschwitz. A two word syllable, whose international trajectory, continues to represent everything that was, and still is wrong with humanity. A diabolical syntheses of which is most coherently as well as magnificently touched upon throughout this outstanding book.

To be sure, Representing Auschwitz – At the Margins of Testimony addresses the aforesaid incomprehension of the Nazi regime in the Introduction, where the two editors Nicholas Chare and Dominic Williams immediately write: ”The boundary necessary for comprehension, or claiming, of the Holocaust experience, the scission between within and without, can only be instituted belatedly. It is necessary to establish a gap between within and without in the psyche of the individual survivor in order to mend the ‘the historical gap which the event created in the collective witnessing.”’

Upon reading the above, I am inclined to ask if such a mode of considered behaviour is even possible?

How can we, almost seventy-five years after the very implementation of the Final Solution, penetrate the ‘psyche of the individual survivor?’ Other than trying to come to some sort of terms with Holocaust literature and such brave, uncompromising film-making as Son Of Saul, all we can (fortunately) hope for, at best, is an inkling of empathy; which explains why these ten superlative essays are so very, very important.

As Professor Robert Eaglestone of the Royal Holloway, University of London states: ”This outstanding book has essays from not only the leading academics in the field (including perhaps the most important philosopher of history of our time, Hayden White) but also from leading writers in this area (Anne Karpf, Eva Hoffman). Each essay is a fantastic resource, tightly argued, full of revelation and information. More, the book is a model of interdisciplinary work, combining history, literary studies, film, gender theory, art and philosophy. It is also a timely and vital intervention in the development of Holocaust Studies.”

Indeed, all the essays in this book are as vital as each other.

Be it Dan Stone’s ‘The Harmony of Barbarism: Locating the Scrolls of Auschwitz in Holocaust Historiography,’ Sue Vice’s ‘Representing the Einsatzgruppen: The Outtakes of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, Griselda Pollock’s ‘Art as Transport-Station of Trauma? Haunting Objects in the Works of Bracha Ettinger, Sarah Kofman and Chantal Akerman’ or Dominic Williams’ ‘The Dead Are My Teachers’: The Scrolls of Auschwitz in Jerome Rothenberg’s Khurbn.

The latter of which, perhaps in relation to having watched Nemes’ powerful depiction of the Sonderkommando, resonates all the more poignantly. Under the sub-heading ‘The Scrolls of Auschwitz, Williams’ quotes from a three-page narrative, written by Leib Langfuss, which accounts for part of Jerome Rothenberg’s Khurbn. It essentially ”tells the story of the last hours of 3,000 women dumped in the grounds of Crematorium 2 after being imprisoned and starved for a week […]. The words Rothenberg quotes are part of one girl’s reaction to a member of the Sonderkommando bursting into tears.

They examined our faces looking for an expression of sympathy. One stood in a corner and looked deep into the depths of these poor helpless souls. He could no longer control himself and burst out crying. A young girl then said ‘Ah! I have been privileged to see before I die an expression of sorrow, a tear of sympathy at our sad fate, in this camp of murderers, in which so many are tortured, beaten and killed, in which people see so many murders and interminable horrors, in the camp where our senses become dull and petrified at the sight of the worst horrors, where every human emotion dies to the extent that you can see your brother or sister fall and not even sigh. Yes, here, can there be a man who will feel our disaster who will weep for our fate? Oh! What a wonderful vision, how unnatural! The tear of a live Jew will go with me to my death, the sight of a sensitive man. There is still someone who will mourn us, [and I] had thought that we could leave this world like miserable orphans. I find a bit of comfort in this young man; among people who are all murderers and criminals, I have found before my death a man with feelings.”’

That a young girl’s fate has evolved into taking such (pathetic) comfort, does, in and of itself, depict a time in history where shame is too kind a word. Where redemption doesn’t even come into play. That any warmth, let alone description of feeling within the actual writing has clearly been nigh annihilated, speaks volumes. Again, more than substantiates why Representing Auschwitz – At the Margins of Testimony is such an unquestionably valuable book.

With the recent cease-fire in Aleppo having once again, come to absolutely nothing, perhaps publications such as this are all that we fundamentally have left – to remind us of our own unspeakable, yet nevertheless repeatable, folly.

David Marx

Hitler’s Soldiers


Hitler’s Soldiers
The German Army in the Third Reich
By Ben H. Shepherd
Yale University Press – £25.00

The more enemies, the more honour!

General von Bomberg’s ridiculous and rather chilling riposte to worries that Germany’s rapid rearmament would antagonise foreign nations – Chapter Two, ‘The Road To War, 1936-39

The army of the Wehrmacht is the sword of the new German worldview.

(Erwin Rommel., December 1938 – Introduction).

Just when you thought you knew pretty much all there was to know, or at least believed you had a reasonable grasp on the German armed forces during the World War II, another superlative book comes along to re-awaken what may have inadvertently evolved into a reckoning of staid assumption.

For one thing, in the Preface of Hitler’s Soldiers – The German Army in the Third Reich by Ben H. Shepherd – whose dark and altogether uncompromising 2012 book, Terror in the Balkans I have also reviewed – immediately tackles the otherwise misinformed thinking that the then German army was known as the Wehrmacht: ”Whilst many books employ the term ‘Wehrmacht’ to denote the German army, this is actually incorrect. ‘Wehrmacht’ directly translates as Armed forces, and technically speaking the Wehrmacht comprised not just the army, but also the air force (Luftwaffe), navy (Kriegsmarine), and from 1944, the Waffen-SS.”

Thus, by the time one has reached the book’s Introduction, one has already been alerted to what is clearly a very important error; an elongated error at that, which, surprisingly, ought to have been clarified years ago.

Exceedingly well researched, and perhaps investigated well beyond the call of literary duty, Shepherd clearly knows the political and socially sinister side of modern, German history: ”Big business bought into the Nazi economic programme, albeit with some reservations, partly because rearmament promised enormous profits and business opportunities, partly because the Nazis had obligingly destroyed the trade unions, and partly because the Nazis were able to manipulate big business by divide and rule, particularly coopting those sections of commerce and industry that had most to gain from rearmament (‘The Army in the New Reich’).

As inconceivably complex as the Second World War was, Shepherd has herein tackled each and every phase with a more than cool-headed, linear and analytical dexterity. A quality, which in and of itself alone, underlines the clarity with which Hitler’s Soldiers has been so scholarly devised. What’s more, said quality also reinforces a sense of subliminal trust within that of the reader, wherein the actual reading itself, becomes almost effortless.

To be sure, one can almost home in on any of this book’s twenty-four chapters, with the acute and assured knowledge that what one is reading, is based upon historical fact. Although (perhaps) more importantly, especially so far as the German army is concerned, the facts have themselves been aligned with a critical synthesis of significantly new strategic and social revelation.

For instance, in the fifth chapter, ‘The Greatest Victory, 1940,’ Shepherd sheds relative, new light upon the fact that as a tactician (or madman, both are as equally applicable), Hitler was already getting it horribly wrong as early as Dunkirk: ”[…] the drive on Dunkirk had exposed Hitler’s less than steady nerve, a trait that, paradoxically, would reveal itself again even as the dictator grew ever more convinced of his military genius. It was the campaign’s triumphant conclusion that would dangerously encourage this new sense of infallibility. The drive on Dunkirk also exposed another of Hitler’s traits, one that would, again, resurface ever more frequently and detrimentally – his penchant for micromanaging operations down to the minutest detail.”

To assert as much so early on in the Battle for France, is, to my mind at least, a revelation which isn’t to be taken at all lightly. There again, with the euphoria over the eventual defeat of the country (what with the campaign having started on May 10th, Paris having declared itself an open city on June 13th and the wholesale surrender of France on June 22nd), Blitzkrieg gave rise and a whole meaning to the unfortunate word, swift.

Indeed, Blitzkrieg was borne out of a diktat or approach, initially set in place during Germany’s rearmament of the thirties; a time when the Wehrmacht was, as Rommel declared, evolving into ”the sword of the new German worldview” by way of a whole new militaristic ideology. An ideology which the author initially touches on in the book’s Introduction: ”To ensure that both its frontline officers and more senior commanders would be equal to the task of conducting offensive mobile warfare, Reichswehr doctrine and training promoted Auftragstaktik, or ‘mission tactics,’ a concept that had suffused Prusso-German military thinking since the nineteenth century […] a complex approach, with several interdependent elements, to the increasingly unpredictable conditions of the battlefield.”

Following the Battle for France, Shepherd once again refers to Auftragstaktik: ”[…] it was the Germans’ own strengths that enabled them to triumph so spectacularly. Among other things, they profited from an imaginative and daring operational plan. But if one single, overall reason for the German army’s triumph in the west can be pinpointed, it is that its doctrinal approach to tactics and operations far outclassed that of its opponents. At all levels, it possessed qualities of daring and adaptability, and a capacity to react to the rapidly changing battlefield situation – all hallmarks of Auftragstaktik […]. On the other hand, all these qualities and technologies were employed with the aim of achieving what was, for the German military, a tried-and-tested operational goal: breaking through, encircling and defeating the enemy by concentrating overwhelming power against his weakest spot. As one French general commented after the campaign, the French had used their three thousand tanks in a thousand pack of three, whereas the Germans had used their three thousand tanks in three packs of a thousand.”

It is just such fresh and incisive analyses, which accounts for Hitler’s Soldiers being such an invigorating, if not majestic read on a subject that, although written upon on numerous occasions over the course of the last seventy years, has never been so thoroughly dissected until now.

As such, these 536 pages (excluding Preface, Introduction, Acknowledgements, Appendices, Table of Acronyms, Glossary of German Phrases, Table of Equivalent Ranks, Figures, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index and Notes on Illustrations), which are broken into five distinct sections, make for an utterly magnificent, if not fulfilling read.

Quite possibly the finest book on the German Army (during World War II) I’ve ever read.

David Marx

30-Second Economics


30-Second Economics
The 50 most thought-provoking economic theories, each explained
in half a minute
Edited by Donald Marron
Icon Books – £14.99

In the Introduction of this rather readable, entertaining book on the theory of economics (an entertaining book on economics – who’d have thought it?), editor Donald Marron writes: ”Economists […] study how fundamental social forces explain everything from the price of bread to the wealth disparity between the United States and Zimbabwe.”

I too could explain ”the wealth disparity between the United States and Zimbabwe,” although it would be utterly different to that of where Mr. Marron is coming from.

Words to the effect that there is still some validity of checks and balances (perhaps) taking place throughout the U.S., for checks and oodles of balances are one of the fundamental foundations upon which the country was built. Yet so long as that vile/puerile excuse of a human being, Robert Mugabe continues to hold office in Zimbabwe, a huge disparity of morality will continue to reign supreme. Let lone a huge disparity of wealth.

As such, Marron readily contests that ”economics is thus still a work in progress; and it may end up resembling biology more than it does physics. But economics isn’t just science. Many economists, myself included, believe that our insights into how the world works have implications for how the world should work in general. As a result, the scientific theories of economics blur into political theories of the good society.”

I have to confess to liking the use of the word ‘blur’ in the final sentence, as it subliminally injects a sense so haziness into the proceedings. A haziness which is open to both interpretation and contradiction.

That said: ”Many of the top fifty theories in economics can indeed be traced to economists who are defunct, at least in the biological sense (including Keynes himself). But the theories themselves remain vibrant. As Keynes warns, however, important theories are not always right. So mixed among the most important theories you will find a few that are almost certainly wrong, despite their influence.”

In a succinct and altogether inviting manner, these 154 pages (not including Resources, Index and Acknowledgements) traverse all there is to know about economics in bite-size chunks; which, to all intents and purposes, can surely, only be a good thing?

As well as meeting some of the founding fathers of modern economics like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall and Milton Friedman; the handsomely put together 30-Second Economics – The 50 most thought provoking economic theories, each explained in half a minute also traverses the various schools of economic thought (such as Keynesian and the Austrian School), along with varying Economic Systems and Cycles, Global Trade, Neoclassical Synthesis and naturally, the Expected Utility Theory – which herein, falls under the heading of Choice(!).

In fact, everything from Monetarism to Marxism to Mercantilism is touched upon in this colourful and overtly compact book. An Icon publication that will undoubtedly serve as the perfect introduction or ultimate crash course in economic theory.

David Marx