Bookcover: How Much Is Enough?

Obsession with wealth explored in new book

What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that were asked when the financial system crashed in 2008.

A new book by University of Exeter philosopher, Dr Edward Skidelsky and his father Lord Skidelsky, an Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, tackles such questions head-on.

How Much Is Enough? begins with the great economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930 Keynes predicted that, over the next century, per capita income would steadily rise, people’s basic needs would be met, and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week. The book explains why Keynes was mistaken. Even though income has increased as he envisaged, society’s wants have seemingly gone unsatisfied, and people continue to work long hours.

Dr Skidelsky said: “How Much is Enough? is a joint product of my father’s interest in Keynes and my interest in Aristotle. We show that both Keynes and Aristotle thought of wealth creation as a process with an ultimate end - the achievement and maintenance of a ‘good life’ - and argue that this perspective provides a much needed antidote to our current obsession with economic growth as an end in itself.

“In the last chapter of the book, we outline some policies that could help steer society towards the good life for all: a progressive consumption tax, an unconditional basic income, and tighter controls on advertising.”

How Much is Enough? was published with Allen Lane in the UK and the Other Press in the US in June 2012. It has been reviewed in all the major UK newspapers and is being translated into seven languages across the world. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, described it as a “wake-up call.” John Cruddas MP, leader of the Labour Party’s policy review, has written in the Independent that “the Skidelskys are laying the foundations for something profound.”

How Much is Enough? was inspired by Edward Skidelsky’s research on Aristotle at the University of Exeter and forms the foundation of his MA module, “Money, Ethics, Power”. Edward Skidelsky is now working on another book, The Language of the Virtues, commissioned by Princeton University Press.

Date: 10 July 2012