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Capital in the Twenty-First Century - Thomas  Piketty

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Hardcover

Published: 15th April 2014
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What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality--the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth--today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.

About the Author

Thomas Piketty is Professor at the Paris School of Economics.

“It seems safe to say that Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year—and maybe of the decade. Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent.”—Paul Krugman, The New York Times

“An extraordinary sweep of history backed by remarkably detailed data and analysis… Piketty’s economic analysis and historical proofs are breathtaking.”—Robert B. Reich, The Guardian

“Piketty’s treatment of inequality is perfectly matched to its moment. Like [Paul] Kennedy a generation ago, Piketty has emerged as a rock star of the policy-intellectual world… But make no mistake, his work richly deserves all the attention it is receiving… Piketty, in collaboration with others, has spent more than a decade mining huge quantities of data spanning centuries and many countries to document, absolutely conclusively, that the share of income and wealth going to those at the very top—the top 1 percent, .1 percent, and .01 percent of the population—has risen sharply over the last generation, marking a return to a pattern that prevailed before World War I… Even if none of Piketty’s theories stands up, the establishment of this fact has transformed political discourse and is a Nobel Prize–worthy contribution. Piketty provides an elegant framework for making sense of a complex reality. His theorizing is bold and simple and hugely important if correct. In every area of thought, progress comes from simple abstract paradigms that guide later thinking, such as Darwin’s idea of evolution, Ricardo’s notion of comparative advantage, or Keynes’s conception of aggregate demand. Whether or not his idea ultimately proves out, Piketty makes a major contribution by putting forth a theory of natural economic evolution under capitalism… Piketty writes in the epic philosophical mode of Keynes, Marx, or Adam Smith… By focusing attention on what has happened to a fortunate few among us, and by opening up for debate issues around the long-run functioning of our market system, Capital in the Twenty-First Century has made a profoundly important contribution.”—Lawrence H. Summers, Democracy

“Piketty has come in for a lot of praise for the clarity of his writing, and I think it’s deserved. There’s very little math in this book, and it assumes very little prior knowledge of economics. In part, this is because Piketty is offering something fresh in the discourse: an unimaginably massive data-set that traces the ebb and flow of wealth and productivity around the globe for three centuries… Piketty challenges the idea that modernity somehow led to ‘merit’ asserting itself as the new determinant of wealth. Instead, he makes a very convincing case that the increasing size of the capital class—which expanded comfortably during the period of colonial expansion—created a hunger for wealth that turned the aristocracy on itself in a squabble over who got to loot the colonies, which was World War I… This is a crisis. The reason for capitalism is that it is supposed to allocate reward based on ‘merit’—it is supposed to move capital into the hands of the people who can do the most with it—and if all our policy decisions are made in service to a class of supermanagers whose wealth comes from squatting on a fortune managed by some green-eyeshade quants who grow it without its owner ever doing a notable thing apart from being born to dynasty, there is no more reason for capitalism. Piketty darkly hints that the last time this happened, the world tore itself to pieces, twice, in an orgy of destruction that left millions dead and whole nations in ruin… It’s a rare thing to see economists, especially pro-capitalist economists, praising taxation itself, but Piketty—careful, unemotional Piketty—dares… Besides, he says, the thing every red-blooded entrepreneur wants to see is people getting rich by their wits and deeds, not by the birthright of kings… Piketty wants desperately to salvage captalism, even if that means proposing something that every capitalist will hate: a global wealth tax.”—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“Riveting… [Picketty] embodies a model of engaged and sophisticated public debate, the sort of which politicians can only dream… One of Piketty’s main messages is that the structures of inequality societies choose to live with are the results of political choices, not natural or immutable economic tendencies, and that to pretend otherwise is an ‘ideological’ fiction… Capital inequality has dispossessed us of our ‘democratic sovereignty,’ and that’s something we should all really worry about… His book is as much a story about the limits of modem democratic politics as it is about the structures of inequality… When Piketty’s insights are eventually fused into new histories of economic and political thinking about global competition from the French Revolution to the present, the results will be… electrifying, particularly when it comes to revisiting the political and economic ideas of the global wars of the first half of the twentieth century… [This book] will certainly also shake the foundations of many university courses in political philosophy. That is itself quite a remarkable achievement, and perhaps the sort of achievement that might lead to the sort of political consciousness-raising Piketty is clearly keen to promote. In that, he really is an heir to a long-standing tradition of public intellectuals in French academic life since the Revolution.”—Duncan Kelly, The Times Literary Supplement

“A sweeping account of rising inequality… Eventually, Piketty says, we could see the reemergence of a world familiar to nineteenth-century Europeans; he cites the novels of Austen and Balzac. In this ‘patrimonial society,’ a small group of wealthy rentiers lives lavishly on the fruits of its inherited wealth, and the rest struggle to keep up… The proper role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate. Capital in the Twenty-first Century does all these things… Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore.”—John Cassidy, The New Yorker

“It is easy to overlook the achievement of Thomas Piketty’s new bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, as a work of economic history. Debates about the book have largely focused on inequality. But on any given page, there is data about the total level of private capital and the percentage of income paid out to labor in England from the 1700s onward, something that would have been impossible for early researchers… Capital reflects decades of work in collecting national income data across centuries, countries, and class, done in partnership with academics across the globe. But beyond its remarkably rich and instructive history, the book’s deep and novel understanding of inequality in the economy has drawn well-deserved attention… [Piketty’s] engagement with the rest of the social sciences also distinguishes him from most economists… The book is filled with brilliant moments… The book is an attempt to ground the debate over inequality in strong empirical data, put the question of distribution back into economics, and open the debate not just to the entirety of the social sciences but to people themselves.”—Mike Konczal, Boston Review

“What makes Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century such a triumph is that it seems to have been written specifically to demolish the great economic shibboleths of our time… [The book is] Piketty’s magnum opus.”—Thomas Frank, Salon
“[A] 700-page punch in the plutocracy’s pampered gut… It’s been half a century since a book of economic history broke out of its academic silo with such fireworks.”—Giles Whittell, The Times
“Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics has done the definitive comparative historical research on income inequality in his Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”—Paul Starr, The New York Review of Books

“Bracing… Piketty provides a fresh and sweeping analysis of the world’s economic history that puts into question many of our core beliefs about the organization of market economies. His most startling news is that the belief that inequality will eventually stabilize and subside on its own, a long-held tenet of free market capitalism, is wrong. Rather, the economic forces concentrating more and more wealth into the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time.”—Eduardo Porter, The New York Times

“Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a monumental book that will influence economic analysis (and perhaps policymaking) in the years to come. In the way it is written and the importance of the questions it asks, it is a book the classic authors of economics could have written if they lived today and had access to the vast empirical material Piketty and his colleagues collected… In a short review, it is impossible to do even partial justice to the wealth of information, data, analysis, and discussion contained in this book of almost 700 pages. Piketty has returned economics to the classical roots where it seeks to understand the ‘laws of motion’ of capitalism. He has re-emphasized the distinction between ‘unearned’ and ‘earned’ income that had been tucked away for so long under misleading terminologies of ‘human capital,’ ‘economic agents,’ and ‘factors of production.’ Labor and capital—those who have to work for a living and those who live from property—people in flesh—are squarely back in economics via this great book.”—Branko Milanovic, The American Prospect
“Monumental… [Piketty] documents a sharp increase in such inequality over the last 25 years, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, with people with the highest incomes far outstripping the rest of society. The book is impressive in its wealth of information.”—Robert J. Shiller, The New York Times

“[A] magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality… The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties… Piketty has written a truly superb book. It’s a work that melds grand historical sweep—when was the last time you heard an economist invoke Jane Austen and Balzac?—with painstaking data analysis… A tour de force of economic modeling, an approach that integrates the analysis of economic growth with that of the distribution of income and wealth. This is a book that will change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics… Capital in the Twenty-First Century is, as I hope I’ve made clear, an awesome work. At a time when the concentration of wealth and income in the hands of a few has resurfaced as a central political issue, Piketty doesn’t just offer invaluable documentation of what is happening, with unmatched historical depth. He also offers what amounts to a unified field theory of inequality, one that integrates economic growth, the distribution of income between capital and labor, and the distribution of wealth and income among individuals into a single frame… Capital in the Twenty-First Century makes it clear that public policy can make an enormous difference, that even if the underlying economic conditions point toward extreme inequality, what Piketty calls ‘a drift toward oligarchy’ can be halted and even reversed if the body politic so chooses… His masterwork… Sometimes it seems as if a substantial part of our political class is actively working to restore Piketty’s patrimonial capitalism. And if you look at the sources of political donations, many of which come from wealthy families, this possibility is a lot less outlandish than it might seem… [A] masterly diagnosis of where we are and where we’re heading… Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an extremely important book on all fronts. Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to.”—Paul Krugman, The New York Review of Books

“Reading Thomas Piketty’s famous book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, after all the fuss about it, is a bit of a shock. It’s both much more radical and much less radical than its reputation… I was anticipating a left-wing rant, but Piketty’s tone is modest and polite—not at all what you expect from a rock-star French intellectual… Piketty and his book remind me of my favorite economist, the 19th-century American Henry George, and his best-selling book, Progress and Poverty (1879). Both men’s books offer a comprehensive explanation of the world, in particular the problem of poverty. Both men acknowledge the importance of market incentives and entrepreneurship and the evils of protectionism and all of that good conservative stuff, even as they rail against the plutocrats. Both think we can end or reduce inequality without giving up the benefits of capitalism. And both see the answer in a new tax on capital… This is beginning to sound sort of reasonable, both in its demands on people at the top and its generosity to those on the bottom.”—Michael Kinsley, Vanity Fair

“Groundbreaking…The usefulness of economics is determined by the quality of data at our disposal. Piketty’s new volume offers a fresh perspective and a wealth of newly compiled data that will go a long way in helping us understand how capitalism actually works.”—Christopher Matthews, Fortune.com

“French economist Thomas Piketty has written an extraordinarily important book. Open-minded readers will surely find themselves unable to ignore the evidence and arguments he has brought to bear… In its scale and sweep it brings us back to the founders of political economy… The result is a work of vast historical scope, grounded in exhaustive fact-based research, and suffused with literary references. It is both normative and political. Piketty rejects theorizing ungrounded in data… The book is built on a 15-year program of empirical research conducted in conjunction with other scholars. Its result is a transformation of what we know about the evolution of income and wealth (which he calls capital) over the past three centuries in leading high-income countries. That makes it an enthralling economic, social and political history.”—Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“Stands a fair chance of becoming the most influential work of economics yet published in our young century. It is the most important study of inequality in over fifty years… Although the contours of Piketty’s history confirm what economic historians already know, his anatomizing of the 1 percent’s fortunes over centuries is a revelation. When joined to his magisterial command of the source material and his gift for synthesis, they disclose a history not of steady economic expansion but of stops and starts, with room for sudden departures from seemingly unbreakable patterns. In turn, he links this history to economic theory, demonstrating that there is no inherent drive in markets toward income equality. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.”—Timothy Shenk, The Nation

“Magnificent… Even though it is a work more concerned with the past 200 years, it’s no coincidence that the full title of Piketty’s book is Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Its ambition is to shape debates about the next two centuries, not the past two. And in that it may succeed.”—Christopher Croke, The Australian
“[Piketty] is just about to emerge as the most important thinker of his generation… He makes his case in a clear and rigorous manner that debunks everything that capitalists believe about the ethical status of making money… He demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better. From the banking crisis of 2008 to the Occupy movement of 2011, this much has been intuited by ordinary people. The singular significance of his book is that it proves ‘scientifically’ that this intuition is correct. This is why his book has crossed over into the mainstream—it says what many people have already been thinking… Unlike many economists he insists that economic thinking cannot be separated from history or politics… As poverty increases across the globe, everyone is being forced to listen to Piketty with great attention. But although his diagnosis is accurate and compelling, it is hard, almost impossible, to imagine that the cure he proposes—tax and more tax—will ever be implemented in a world where, from Beijing to Moscow to Washington, money, and those who have more of it than anyone else, still calls the shots.”—Andrew Hussey, The Observer

“Piketty has won interest and enthusiasm on the left of the political spectrum…for this ambitious work. It is not, however, a politically sectarian argument; perhaps that explains why it has become a surprise bestseller. The strength of his thesis is that it is founded on evidence rather than ideology. Piketty has researched data over more than a century in order to derive his understanding of the dynamics of modern capitalism. He is able to point convincingly to a recent reversal of historical trends, so that the share of national income taken by the owners of capital has expanded over the past generation… What Piketty has done is provide a strong factual understanding for how modern capitalist economies diverge from the image of risk-taking and productive commercial activity. At the very least, the book effectively debunks the notion that there is an economic imperative for low tax rates and a smaller state.”—Oliver Kamm, The Times

“Magisterial… Piketty’s Capital feels very much like a Category 4 hurricane that hasn’t yet made landfall… Piketty draws on a vast store of historical data to argue that the broad dissemination of wealth that occurred during the decades following World War I was not, as economists then mistakenly believed, a natural state of capitalist equilibrium, but rather a halcyon interval between Belle Époque inequality and the rising inequality of our own era… Piketty’s most provocative argument is that the discrepancy between the high returns to capital and much more modest overall economic growth—briefly annulled during the mid-century—ensures that the gulf between the rich (who profit from capital investments) and the middle class (who depend chiefly on income from labor) will only continue to grow… The best reason to raise tax rates is not to punish the rich, of course, but to raise the revenue which the United States needs to invest in infrastructure and research, not to mention to pay for Social Security and health care. That investment gap poses a clear and present danger to American global economic leadership. Rising inequality exacerbates the problem by sapping the collective political will needed to address the problem.”—James Traub, Foreign Policy online

“Defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism… [It] suggests that traditional liberal government policies on spending, taxation and regulation will fail to diminish inequality… Without what [Piketty] acknowledges is a politically unrealistic global wealth tax, he sees the United States and the developed world on a path toward a degree of inequality that will reach levels likely to cause severe social disruption. Final judgment on Piketty’s work will come with time—a problem in and of itself, because if he is right, inequality will worsen, making it all the more difficult to take preemptive action.”—Thomas B. Edsall, The New York Times

“This is a serious book… Piketty’s main point, and his new and powerful contribution to an old topic: as long as the rate of return exceeds the rate of growth, the income and wealth of the rich will grow faster than the typical income from work. (There seems to be no offsetting tendency for the aggregate share of capital to shrink; the tendency may be slightly in the opposite direction.) This interpretation of the observed trend toward increasing inequality, and especially the phenomenon of the 1 percent, is not rooted in any failure of economic institutions; it rests primarily on the ability of the economy to absorb increasing amounts of capital without a substantial fall in the rate of return. This may be good news for the economy as a whole, but it is not good news for equity within the economy… There is yet another, also rather dark, implication of this account of underlying trends. If already existing agglomerations of wealth tend to grow faster than incomes from work, it is likely that the role of inherited wealth in society will increase relative to that of recently earned and therefore more merit-based fortunes… The arithmetic suggests that the concentration of wealth and its ability to grow will favor an increasing weight of inheritance as compared with talent… If the ownership of wealth in fact becomes even more concentrated during the rest of the twenty-first century, the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy… Wouldn’t it be interesting if the United States were to become the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the last refuge of increasing inequality at the top (and perhaps also at the bottom)? Would that work for you?”—Robert Solow, The New Republic

“The blockbuster economics book of the season, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, argues that the great equalizing decades following World War II, which brought on the rise of the middle class in the United States, were but a historical anomaly. Armed with centuries of data, Piketty says the rich are going to continue to gobble up a greater share of income, and our current system will do nothing to reverse that trend.”—Shaila Dewan, The New York Times Magazine

“The book aims to revolutionize the way people think about the economic history of the past two centuries. It may well manage the feat… It is, first and foremost, a very detailed look at 200 years’ worth of data on the distribution of income and wealth across the rich world (with some figures for large emerging markets also included). This mountain of data allows Piketty to tell a simple and compelling story… The database on which the book is built is formidable, and it is difficult to dispute his call for a new perspective on the modern economic era, whether or not one agrees with his policy recommendations… We are all used to sneering at communism because of its manifest failure to deliver the sustained rates of growth managed by market economies. But Marx’s original critique of capitalism was not that it made for lousy growth rates. It was that a rising concentration of wealth couldn’t be sustained politically. Ultimately, those of us who would like to preserve the market system need to grapple with that sort of dynamic, in the context of the worrying numbers on inequality that Piketty presents.”—The Economist
“The most remarkable work of economics in recent years, if not decades… [It] has caused an intellectual sensation on both sides of the Atlantic… His range is immense. And his open, fluent style will guarantee him a wide readership. In contrast to much of what passes for orthodox economics, he is engaged with the problems of the real world… The discipline of economics, Piketty argues, remains trapped in a juvenile passion for mathematics, divorced from history and its sister social sciences. His work aims to change that.”—Nick Pearce, New Statesman

“A landmark book…which brings a ton of data to bear in reaching the commonsensical conclusion that inequality has to do with more than just blind market forces at work.”—George Packer, The New Yorker blog

“[Piketty] is now the most talked-about economist on the planet… Capital is rooted not in theoretical abstractions so much as archaeology. The book analyzes hundreds of years of tax records from France, the U.K., the U.S., Germany and Japan to prove a simple idea: The rich really are getting richer. And their wealth doesn’t trickle down. It trickles up… The stark historical consequences of unchecked inequality are at the heart of Capital.”—Rana Foroohar, Time

“Magisterial… Piketty provides a sweeping, data-driven narrative about inequality trends in the United States and other Western economies over the past century or more, identifies a worrisome increase in income and wealth concentration in a small percentage of the population since 1980, and warns that this trend won’t likely correct itself… Piketty is not optimistic that the forces of greater income and wealth inequality will abate on their own, but he is not an economic determinist. The problem, however, is that countering those forces requires public policies and institutions more like those of the era of shared prosperity than those of today.”—Chad Stone, U.S. News & World Report

“Piketty’s new book is an important contribution to understanding what we need to do to produce more growth, wider economic opportunity and greater social stability.”—David Cay Johnston, Al-Jazeera America

“When it comes to economics…you need to get yourself a hold of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty… Piketty’s study will have readers plotting capital’s downfall because what it shows is that the growing inequalities we are seeing between the haves and have nots are endemic to the system. Piketty has been hailed by many on the right as well as the left, for writing a highly significant book. Its strength rests on the fact that he has worked the sources in a way few economists have, analyzing actual data on earnings over decades to come up with some startling conclusions. We are entering a new age of capital, he argues; a time, similar to the early 19th century, when many will live off their money without the need for work. Meanwhile, those without capital will always struggle to keep ahead of debts.”—Thomas Quinn, Big Issue

“Piketty’s magnum opus… But unlike many other authors of tracts from the ‘dismal science,’ this distinguished French economist has rendered an eminently readable account of the history and dynamics of capitalism and inequality… A lucid tale of why inequality in the world is increasing, and what we should be doing about it. The right leaning crowd may be dismayed with his prescriptions of stiff global wealth taxes, but neither leftists nor rightists can dispute the data that he presents… According to Piketty, the only real corrective to capital’s concentration is a global capital tax (because it is freely globally mobile), and a stiff inheritance tax. This is controversial, but what is not disputed is that inequality in income and wealth within each country has gotten much worse in the past three decades. The question is what do we do about it. For starters, we should read this excellent book.”—Ajit Ranade, Business Today

“This important and fascinating book surely ranks among the most influential economic analysis of recent decades. Much of the debate over inequality in recent years is the result of the work of Thomas Piketty and his fellow researchers… This book contains important lessons for economists. It is a (perhaps unwelcome) reminder that what they measure reflects political choices. It cautions them to be wary of viewing recent decades as some sort of ‘steady state’; the evolution of post–World War II incomes and wealth reflect the unwinding of earlier events, and the point is more general. And it reminds them of the rhetorical and explanatory power of simple comparisons of facts, once collected and arranged, relative to complex statistics and models.”—Andrew Berg, Finance & Development

“Over the last decade or so, economist Thomas Piketty has made his name central to serious discussions of inequality… Piketty expands upon his empirical work of the last 10 years, while also setting forth a political theory of inequality. This last element of the book gives special attention to tax policy and makes some provocative suggestions—new and higher taxes on the very rich.”—Joseph Thorndike, Forbes

“The most eagerly anticipated book on economics in many years.”—Toby Sanger, The Globe and Mail

“Many of the book’s 700 pages are spent marshaling the evidence that 21st-century capitalism is on a one-way journey towards inequality—unless we do something. If Piketty is right, there are big political implications, and the beauty of the book is that he never refrains from drawing them… The book’s terms and explanations are utterly simple; with a myriad of historical data, Piketty reduces the story of capitalism to a clear narrative arc. To challenge his argument you have to reject the premises of it, not the working out… Is Piketty the new Karl Marx? Anybody who has read the latter will know he is not… Piketty has, more accurately, placed an unexploded bomb within mainstream, classical economics… The power of Piketty’s work is that it also challenges the narrative of the center-left under globalization, which believed upskilling the workforce, combined with mild redistribution, would promote social justice. This, Piketty demonstrates, is mistaken. All that social democracy and liberalism can produce, with their current policies, is the oligarch’s yacht co-existing with the food bank forever. Piketty’s Capital, unlike Marx’s Capital, contains solutions possible on the terrain of capitalism itself.”—Paul Mason, The Guardian

“Piketty solidifies and gives an intellectual edge to the view that something is wrong here, and something new and bold and radical has got to be done… People like me, and others, are certainly excited by the prospect of where Piketty might take us.”—Len McCluskey, The Guardian

“The big questions that concerned Mill, Marx and Smith are now rearing their heads afresh… Thomas Piketty—who spent long years, during which the mainstream neglected inequality, mapping the distribution of income—is making waves with Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Nodding at Marx, that title helps explain the attention, but his decidedly classical emphasis on historical dynamics in determining who gets what resonates in a world where an increasing proportion of citizens are feeling fleeced by the elite.”—The Guardian

“[Capital in the Twenty-First Century] has jolted the right, who are scrabbling around for an answer to its main message: rising inequality is killing capitalism… It is a big book in every sense of the word, using empirical evidence from 30 countries to describe how capitalism has evolved over the past 300 years and is now reverting to what Piketty calls the Downton Abbey world of a century ago. Where much modern writing about economics is cloaked in impenetrable jargon, Piketty is not afraid to draw on literature and popular culture to make his points… Piketty’s book seems to explain the brutal world of the Great Recession and its aftermath rather better than trickle-down economics… It is rare for economics books to fly off the shelves. Once in every generation, usually when the world has started to recover after a serious recession, there is a search for answers. Will Hutton’s The State We’re In was the must-buy book two decades ago just as Piketty’s is today.”—The Guardian blog

“Piketty sets out to tell a high-level history of the global economy and to outline a fresh theory of where we are heading. It’s the sort of grand intellectual enterprise that was common in the 19th century, but has become a rarity in our era of more specialized scholarship… Piketty says he wants the book to be widely read and his ideas debated. He has succeeded. Questions of economic theory have now reached an uncommonly large audience. One could, of course, fill a book twice the size with the reviews and the commentary Capital has prompted. But there is a better way into the debate than consuming the Piketty media phenomenon: spend a little valuable capital and read the original yourself.”—Ben Chu, The Independent
“In the 19th century, tsarist censors banned John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty while letting through Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Mill’s message was so lucidly expressed that it posed an obvious and immediate threat to the regime; Marx’s prose was clotted and convoluted and his economics littered with leftovers from his youthful enthusiasm for Hegel. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century shares its title with Marx’s work but its argumentative verve with Mill’s, and it has been a runaway bestseller in the United States. In spite of the efforts of conservative American economists to persuade their readers that anyone who raises questions about inequalities of income and wealth must be a Marxist, Piketty has no time whatsoever for Marx. Piketty’s economics is ‘data driven,’ while Marx was short of useful data, did not make good use of what data he had and generalized wildly from a few exceptional cases of capital-intensive industries… The book is a terrific achievement.”—Alan Ryan, Literary Review

“Not since John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice in 1971 has a work of political theory been as rapturously received on the left as Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century… In this supposedly superficial and anti-intellectual age, his 690-page treatise on inequality, rich in empirical research, has resonated because it speaks to one of the central anxieties of our time: that society is becoming ever more fragmented as the very rich pull away from the rest. As Piketty elegantly demonstrates, as long as the rate of return on what he calls capital continues to exceed the growth rate of the economy (as it has done since the 1970s), inequality will widen to levels unknown since the Victorian era.”—New Statesman

ISBN: 9780674430006
ISBN-10: 067443000X
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 640
Published: 15th April 2014
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Dimensions (cm): 24.1 x 16.7  x 6.0
Weight (kg): 1.21