AN INQUIRY INTO THE HUMAN PROSPECT by Robert L. Heilbroner

AN INQUIRY INTO THE HUMAN PROSPECT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Is there hope for man?"" asks Heilbroner, formerly a contented popularizer of Keynesian economics. He broaches a theme that is becoming increasingly familiar: 19th-century liberalism, Marxism and optimism about material growth will give way to a collapse worse than the ""darkness, cruelty and disorder of the past"" if we do not adopt austerity and the authoritarian government required to enforce it. Redistribution of income is involved -- the ""upper fourth or fifth"" of U.S. families must sacrifice, and, moreover, if we don't share with the Third World, the radical governments Heilbroner foresees there will develop nuclear weapons and force ""wars of redistribution."" This nuclear science-fiction does, of course, have a real basis in current plans by the World Bank and others to drastically slow down the advanced sector while investing in underdeveloped areas, but Heilbroner does not investigate such actual policies. Instead, he builds up the fuel-crisis image of the Arabs and others whose ""pre-emptive seizure"" of resources will hamper the Rockefellers from allowing us future comfort. There is also a lot of chatter about, thermal pollution, but the main message is not economic or ecological: it is the call for a ""tradition-oriented, static society"" which can ""rally obedience."" Heilbroner mentions the ""vexing"" difficulties of social science and is pained by his own conclusions, with ""all their potential mischievousness""; perhaps ""the sentries of our society,"" to whom he addresses the book, will feel less pain, and do more mischief. Meanwhile, plebes must cultivate ""new frugal attitudes,"" and ""rediscover the self-renewing vitality of primitive culture without reverting to its levels of ignorance and cruel anxiety.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1974
Publisher: Norton