Thomas Piketty’s provocative new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has struck a chord among prominent economists and political scientists in these trying times. Piketty’s sweeping account of economic theory and history highlights the special character of capital accumulation as the driver of economic inequality, and he challenges us to place distributional questions at the center of the economic debate. Positing that broad-based economic growth is largely a relic of the short 20th century, he contends that the returns on capital will continue to outpace the economic gains accessible to the majority of society, ultimately threatening the foundation of our liberal-democratic states.
Piketty will be visiting Washington DC this April to discuss Capital, with stops in New York in Boston to follow. Be sure to attend one of the discussions of what is already shaping up to be a seminal work of political economy. You can find a list of these speaking events at the bottom of this post.
In case you have not gotten your hands on a copy of the book, or are as of yet unconvinced that you should read it, I have included below a sampling of reviews of Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
- Capital in the 21th Century: Still Mired in the 19th
CEPR’s own Dean Baker discusses the book, criticizing Piketty for some echoes of Marxian determinism and calling attention to specific institutional levers available to policymakers hoping to avoid the fate he foretells.
- Forces of Divergence: Is Surging Inequality Endemic to Capitalism?
Cassidy provides an excellent overview of the work, situating it within broader debates on economic theory and discussing Piketty’s preferred remedy in the form of a global wealth tax.
- Piketty’s Triumph
The American Prospect
A long-form discussion of the work, mainly comprised of three distinct reviews.
- A Tocqueville for Today
Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
- Against U.S. Economic Clichés
- Must We Return to “Pre-tamed” Capitalism?
- A Tocqueville for Today
- The Return of “Patrimonial Capitalism”
Milanovic’s brief review in the American Prospect gives just a taste of this longer and far more thorough treatment, where he walks the reader through Piketty’s arguments, considering potential rejoinders and addressing the crucial points in detail.
- The Top of the World: An Ambitious Study Documents the Long-term Reign of the 1%
Henwood lauds Piketty’s work for perceptively identifying certain continuities across capitalism’s history, but he also finds the political message of the book to be too hesitant and anemic.
- Taking on Heiristocracy: History Shows that Growth Alone Won’t Stop Vast Economic Inequality
In the Washington Monthly, Geier situates Capital within the context of Piketty’s economic research with Emmanuel Saez. She also details how the American tradition of egalitarianism has before, and can again, rise to the present challenge and formulate a solution to the problems Piketty notes. Geier discusses other reviews of Capital at The Nation: In Praise of the Utopian Political Imagination
- Trickle-Up Economics
David Cay Johnston
At Al Jazeera America, Johnston relays Piketty’s conclusions on wealth accumulation, warning that absent prudent economic policy, these trends could quickly return us to a new Belle Époque or Gilded Age.
- The Dead Are Wealthier Than the Living: Capital in the 21st Century
Noah elaborates on Piketty’s conclusion that we are regressing back to a form of patrimonial capitalism, more beholden to rentier interests. Noah also cites Baker’s review with approval, criticizing Capital for certain undue fatalism about the dynamics it identifies.
- Capitalism vs. Democracy
Thomas B. Edsall
Edsall recounts what he describes as Piketty’s ‘bleak prognosis’ of the future of global capitalism, succinctly captured in the title of his review. After his own review, Edsall provides a number of other interesting perspectives on the book, solicited from a variety of prominent American economists.
- All Men are Created Unequal
The Economist’s positive take on Capital, surprising to some, gives an accessible overview of the main theses introduced by Piketty in support of his theory.
- Wealth Over Work
Krugman has caught the Piketty bug as bad as anyone on this list, having also written two blog posts (Notes on Piketty and American Patrimony) on Capital and expected to publish a longer review soon in the New York Review of Books. Krugman’s reviews treat a number of important issues raised by Capital, but call specific attention to how class interests in American politics bear out Piketty’s main thesis.
- Capital in the Twenty-First Century/Inequality and Capitalism in the Long Run: The Honest Broker
DeLong’s post came a few months earlier than the above reviews, and is less a response to Capital itself than it is a discussion of Piketty’s expository lecture “Inequality & Capitalism in the Long-Run.” DeLong helpfully provides the slides and data which accompanied that lecture at the bottom.
- Thomas Piketty Has a Grim View of Our Plutocratic Future
Drum gives a only short treatment of the book over at Mother Jones, but he extrapolates out some of Piketty’s predictions and draws them onto the chart displaying the book’s central thesis, making for perhaps the most succinct treatment of the book here.
- Q&A: Thomas Piketty on the Wealth Divide
Finally, we have Porter’s interview with Piketty in the New York Times, where Piketty discusses the themes of his book as well as the economics tradition he is working within and his impetus for writing it.
Economic Policy Institute – Washington Center for Equitable Growth
Tuesday, April 15 – 9:30 AM
1333 H Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005
Urban Institute & Brookings Institution – Tax Policy Center
Tuesday, April 15 – 12:00 PM
2100 M Street NW, 5th floor Conference Room, Washington, DC 20037
International Monetary Fund
Tuesday, April 15 – 2:30 PM
700 19th Street NW, IMF HQ1, Washington, DC 20431
United Nations – Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Wednesday, April 16 – 3:00 PM
405 E 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
CUNY Graduate Center
Wednesday, April 16 – 6:00 PM
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Harvard Kennedy School – Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government
Friday, April 18 – 12:00 PM
79 JFK Street, Bell Hall (Belfer Building, 5th floor), Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Book Store
Friday, April 18 – 3:00 PM
1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138