The Age of Uncertainty

Presenter: John Kenneth Galbraith

The ideas of economists and social philosophers shape actions and events even when we are unaware of their sources. They have a decisive influence on the great rush of revolution and change through which the world has passed in the last two hundred years.
Professor Galbraith traces these ideas and their consequences from Adam Smith, through Marx and Lenin, to Keynes and to the thinking that gave shape to the concepts of the Cold War, the corporation and, now, the conflicts and concerns of the Third World.

It is a notable book, written with Professor Galbraith’s accustomed wit, clarity and high professional competence – the qualities that have made him one of the most widely admired and widely read writers of the time, not only in English but in a full dozen other languages. But this cool and amusing volume is also written for a yet wider audience than his earlier books – it is for all, in fact, who wish to know and understand the sources both of their own ideas and of those that shape the world.

The first chapter, which examines the ideas of the prophets of classical capitalism, leads on to one on the manners and morals of high capitalism. A portrait of Marx and his ideas is followed by a consideration of colonialism and then of Lenin and the practical expression of his ideas in the demise of the traditional European power structure after the Great War. An interlude on money, banking, bubbles and crashes introduces a chapter on the Keynesian Reassurance. This is followed by a consideration of the modern large and multinational corporation, of the sources of continuing poverty in the Third World and of the origins and agonies of the modern great metropolis. The final chapter is on the nature of democratic power, the way it selects and tests its leaders and the problems to which they must address themselves.

The Age of Uncertainty is being published simultaneously with the release of the television series of the same name. It goes beyond the television treatment to expand and develop the ideas and history there presented, to ensure that what will be engrossing as a television program will be consistent and readable as a book.