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The literary economist

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman - Jeremy Adelman

Albert O. Hirschman was an intellectual who defied easy categorization. Trained as an economist, his many works ran the gamut of the social sciences and humanities, from intellectual history to political rhetoric. His life demonstrated a similar wandering nature, spanning as it did three continents over the course of a long life in which he undertook a range of activities, from fighting for the Spanish Republic to establishing the field of development economics in the decades if decolonization and globalization.


Chronicling such an active and extensive life poses a challenge for the prospective biographer, with many often falling short. Yet Jeremy Adelman proves more than up to the challenge. His book traces Hirschman's life from his boyhood in Weimar to his itinerant education in Europe after the rise of the Nazis, wartime service in the OSS, and postwar work in economics. In the process he details both Hirschman's personal life and his intellectual development, tracing the evolution of his thought within the context of the intellectual, political, and economic developments of his times. The result is a magnificent achievement, one that ranks as a triumph of the biographer's art and one that is unlikely to be bettered as a study of the life and thought of a fascinating individual.