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Peter Acton

Peter Acton
Peter Acton was a vice president of The Boston Consulting Group from 1986 to 1999. His book Poiesis: Manufacturing in Classical Athens will be published by Oxford University Press in late 2014. He is president of Humanities 21 (

Peter Acton reviews 'The Classical Debt: Greek antiquity in an Era of austerity' by Johanna Hanink

Online Exclusives 30 November 2017
‘They rose from nothing and changed everything.’  This fantastic, fawning, fallacious guff introduced a 2016 PBS documentary on ancient Greece, and the biography of the sentiment behind it forms the subject of this unusual social history. Irritated by the fact that almost every media report, political speech, and cartoon about Greece’s current travails plays on the contrast between modern ... (read more)

Peter Acton reviews 'Money Changes Everything: How finance made civilization possible' by William N. Goetzmann

September 2016, no. 384 23 August 2016
Given the damage done to the global economy by the finance industry this century, and the apparent determination of its major players to keep on doing it, this would seem a rather ill-chosen time to produce a book singing its praises. Justification lies in the fact that the work is a tour de force of historical scholarship. Goetzmann offers an extraordinarily wide-ranging and thorough investigatio ... (read more)

Peter Acton reviews 'Capitalism' by John Plender

November 2015, no. 376 28 October 2015
'Money is like poetry because both involve learning to communicate in a compressed language that packs a lot of meaning and consequence into the minimum semantic space.'  This comparison, coming from one of today's most strident critics of the capitalist system, British novelist John Lanchester, is just one of the many delights and surprises John Plender provides in this fascinating and widely r ... (read more)

Peter Acton reviews 'The Great Divide' by Joseph E. Stiglitz

September 2015, no. 374 26 August 2015
Consider the following statements: unregulated markets achieve the best outcomes for society; ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’; government intervention, regulation, and redistribution damage economic growth; tax cuts for the rich are a reliable way to foster growth; financial market innovations create growth and benefit society. Anyone who still believes these statements hasn’t been paying at ... (read more)

Peter Acton reviews 'Pericles of Athens' by Vincent Azoulay translated by Janet Lloyd

May 2015, no. 371 30 April 2015
Father of democracy or nepotic would-be tyrant, corrupting the citizens with flattery and handouts? Brilliant orator, fearlessly committed to the truth, or dangerous sophist saying whatever the mob wanted to hear? Effective administrator of a complex and benevolent empire or cruel curtailer of the allies’ liberties? A model of sobriety and chastity or a lecherous adulterer living with a treacher ... (read more)

Peter Acton reviews 'The Invention of News: How the world came to know about itself' by Andrew Pettegree

January-February 2015, no. 368 01 January 2015
When St Paul’s burned down in 1561, no one was in any doubt that it was the work of God. The debate – and it was a furious one in the press of the time – concerned what this said about His views on the abolition of the mass. Contemporary press reports of the Battle of Lepanto, the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the Spanish Armada show how reporting of even the most important events was ... (read more)