Parker, Richard 1946-
PARKER, Richard 1946-
CAREER: Economist, educator, and writer. Shorenstein Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, lecturer in public policy and senior fellow; U.N. Development Program, economist; head of consulting firm. Cofounder of Mother Jones magazine.
AWARDS, HONORS: Marshall fellowship; Rockefeller fellowship; Danforth fellowship; Goldsmith fellowship; Bank of America fellowship.
The Myth of the Middle Class: Notes on Affluence and Equality, foreword by G. William Domhoff, Liveright (New York, NY), 1972.
Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News, Twentieth Century Fund Press (New York, NY), 1995.
John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to books, including John Kenneth Galbraith, Estados Unidos y el fin de la hegemonia, Capital Intellectual (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, Nation, Washington Post, Harper's, Le Monde, Atlantic Monthly, and International Economy. Member of editorial board, Nation magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: Economist, biographer, and Harvard University professor Richard Parker explores the life and legacy of one of America's most prominent economists in John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. Galbraith, a Harvard-educated economist, advisor to President John F. Kennedy, and an architect of American liberalism, was once the most widely read economist in the United States. Known for a "patrician bearing and PBS-friendly intellectual prowess," Galbraith's economic knowledge and diplomatic skills helped shape much of the country's domestic and foreign policy, noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. He was Kennedy's ambassador to India, and tried to prevent the president from making deep and costly commitments to Vietnam. Later, after sharp disagreement with President Lyndon Johnson, Galbraith "emerged as one of the intellectual left's most powerful critics of the war in Vietnam," the Kirkus Reviews contributor commented. Galbraith's early years, however, did not augur such a distinguished career. Born in 1908, the Scottish-Canadian economist grew up on a farm in rural Ontario. He "spent his undergraduate years at an obscure agricultural college and found his way into the New Deal brain trust and the Ivy League half by accident," remarked Ross Douthat in the National Review. Parker's "fine new biography" provides "a readable historical narrative of large events and intellectual arguments interwoven with the course of Galbraith's extraordinary life," according to William Greider in the Nation. "From the New Deal onward, readers can grasp what was driving the country, its politics and economics. Galbraith was a major actor in both."
Galbraith's books, including American Capitalism, The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, and Economics and the Public Purpose, were widely read in their time. He produced "fluid, magisterial prose with a generous clarity that leads readers across dense and difficult terrain," Greider remarked. He sprinkled his works with wit and occasional jabs at figures of authority. His books, however, were not frivolous; his penetrating intellect leveled criticism at those who deserved it most: the paper-pushers, the self-important, the socially disingenuous. "Across the arc of his long career, as Parker's book makes clear, Galbraith maintained this critical temperament," Greider continued. "That quality is what makes his old books so relevant to the present—his ability to see through economic theory and examine the much larger, infinitely more complex variables of politics, history, psychology and, above all, power."
Parker's "portrait of the urbane, ironic Galbraith" stands as "a stout biography that will be the standard for years," remarked Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor. "Parker writes cleanly and fluidly, and his subject—an idiosyncratic Keynesian who became FDR's price czar, worked for Henry Luce's Fortune, took part in the Strategic Bombing Survey, wrote speeches for Adlai Stevenson in the early 1950s and bestselling books throughout that decade—is no bad protagonist to follow through the tumult of mid-century America," Douthat stated. Parker "writes with fluency and expert knowledge," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who also stated that the book is "a model of clarity" on matters of Galbraith's works and influence.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, p. 1040.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 1190.
Nation, March 14, 2005, William Greider, review of John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 18.
National Review, March 14, 2005, Ross Douthat, "Undismal Scientist," review of John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, January 3, 2005, review of John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 46.