Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Hardcover | September 7, 1996

byPeter L. Bernstein

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A Business Week, New York Times Business, and USA Today Bestseller

"Ambitious and readable . . . an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers, whom Bernstein regards as true humanists helping to release mankind from the choke holds of superstition and fatalism." -The New York Times

"An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book." -The Wall Street Journal

"A lively panoramic book . . . Against the Gods sets up an ambitious premise and then delivers on it." -Business Week

"Deserves to be, and surely will be, widely read." -The Economist

"[A] challenging book, one that may change forever the way people think about the world." -Worth

"No one else could have written a book of such central importance with so much charm and excitement." -Robert Heilbroner author, The Worldly Philosophers

"With his wonderful knowledge of the history and current manifestations of risk, Peter Bernstein brings us Against the Gods. Nothing like it will come out of the financial world this year or ever. I speak carefully: no one should miss it." -John Kenneth Galbraith Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University

In this unique exploration of the role of risk in our society, Peter Bernstein argues that the notion of bringing risk under control is one of the central ideas that distinguishes modern times from the distant past. Against the Gods chronicles the remarkable intellectual adventure that liberated humanity from oracles and soothsayers by means of the powerful tools of risk management that are available to us today.

"An extremely readable history of risk." -Barron's

"Fascinating . . . this challenging volume will help you understand the uncertainties that every investor must face." -Money

"A singular achievement." -Times Literary Supplement

"There's a growing market for savants who can render the recondite intelligibly-witness Stephen Jay Gould (natural history), Oliver Sacks (disease), Richard Dawkins (heredity), James Gleick (physics), Paul Krugman (economics)-and Bernstein would mingle well in their company." -The Australian

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From Our Editors

In a narrative that reads like a novel, this work tells the story of a group of famous scientists and ingenious amateurs who actually discovered the option of risk--of scientifically linking the present to the future. It blends biography with history and science to show how famous thinkers paved the way from superstition to the super c...

From the Publisher

A Business Week, New York Times Business, and USA Today Bestseller "Ambitious and readable . . . an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers, whom Bernstein regards as true humanists helping to release mankind from the choke holds of superstition and fatalism." -The New York Times "An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book....

From the Jacket

Advance Praise for Against the Gods "With his wonderful knowledge of the history and current manifestations of risk, Peter Bernstein brings us Against the Gods. Nothing like it will come out of the financial world this year or ever. I speak carefully: no one should miss it."-John Kenneth Galbraith Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harv...

PETER L. BERNSTEIN is President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., economic consultants to institutional investors. Mr. Bernstein is the author of six books in economics and finance, including the bestselling Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street, as well as many articles in the professional and popular press. He is the...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.29 × 6.38 × 1.28 inPublished:September 7, 1996Publisher:Wiley

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0471121045

ISBN - 13:9780471121046

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Customer Reviews of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Risk and the Stock Market As we all know there are many kinds of risks. In this book, the author focuses mainly on risks associated with the world of finances, mainly the stock market and economics. After an interesting overview of the history of risk and its measurement, particularly regarding gambling, the author gradually steers his efforts towards analyzing human behaviour in the face of the risks involved in investing. There is much in this regard predominantly concerning the later quarter of the twentieth century (the book was published in 1996). From my limited perspective, he seems very thorough in this analysis by including the often (seemingly) contradictory psychological aspects of gains and losses involved in investing mainly in the stock market. Stock market tools, products and behaviour are extensively discussed. Overall, I found the historical parts of this book to be quite interesting, particularly the mini-biographies of the pioneers and the development of probability and statistics. However, I was much less engrossed by the detailed stock market discussions which dominate in roughly the second half of the book. The prose is clear, lively and authoritative, but, in my view, overly detailed on investing-related matters. Readers with a passion for investing and the associated risk (and its history) would likely be those who would enjoy this book the most.
Date published: 2015-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Did you ever wonder about the people whose names are sprinkled in the statistical books used for courses in the universities. Why did they come up with such formulae, what was their motivation, and their objective. Well now Against the Gods attempts to open up secrets about these individuals.
Date published: 2003-07-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from In light of recent events... Great anectdotes of famous mathematicians...but he credits Black/Shcoles too heavily...consider the recent turn of events at Long Term Capital, which some are now calling "Wrong Turn Capital"!. An enjoyable writer whose style brings math to life!
Date published: 1998-10-31

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

TO 1200: BEGINNINGS

1. The Winds of the Greeks and the Role
of the Dice 11

2. As Easy as I, II, III 23

1200–1700: A THOUSAND OUTSTANDING FACTS

3. The Renaissance Gambler 39

4. The French Connection 57

5. The Remarkable Notions of the Remarkable Notions Man 73

1700–1900: MEASUREMENT UNLIMITED

6. Considering the Nature of Man 99

7. The Search for Moral Certainty 116

8. The Supreme Law of Unreason 135

9. The Man with the Sprained Brain 152

10. Peapods and Perils 172

11. The Fabric of Felicity 187

1900–1960: CLOUDS OF VAGUENESS AND THE DEMAND FOR PRECISION

12. The Measure of Our Ignorance 197

13. The Radically Distinct Notion 215

14. The Man Who Counted Everything Except Calories 231

15. The Strange Case of the Anonymous Stockbroker 247

DEGREES OF BELIEF:EXPLORING UNCERTAINTY

16. The Failure of Invariance 269

17. The Theory Police 284

18. The Fantastic System of Side Bets 304

19. Awaiting the Wildness 329

Notes 339

Bibliography 353

Name Index 365

Subject Index 369

From Our Editors

In a narrative that reads like a novel, this work tells the story of a group of famous scientists and ingenious amateurs who actually discovered the option of risk--of scientifically linking the present to the future. It blends biography with history and science to show how famous thinkers paved the way from superstition to the super computer

Editorial Reviews

AGAINST THE GODS appeared in the "Washington Is Also Reading..." section of The Washington Post Book World. The book is described as, "A comprehensive history of man's efforts to understand risk and probability, from ancient gamblers in Greece to modern chaos theory."— The Washington Post Book World, September 20, 1998 ..."Fun-to-read introduction to how humans feel about risk..." (Electric Light and Power, 2 July 2002)