Capital in the Twenty-First Century

by Thomas Piketty

Number of pages: 696

Publisher: Belknap Press

BBB Library: Economics and Investment

ISBN: 9780674430006

About the Author

He’s a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is professor at the Paris School of Economics.


Editorial Review

The distribution of wealth is one of today’s most widely discussed and controversial issues. But what do we really know about its evolution over the long term? Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands? Or do the balancing forces of growth, competition, and technological progress lead in the later stages of development to reduced inequality and greater harmony among the classes? What do we really know about how wealth and income have evolved since the eighteenth century, and what lessons can we derive from that knowledge for the century now under way? The data needed to answer these questions requires that we look into extensive historical and comparative research work covering more than three centuries and twenty countries, as well as into a new theoretical framework that affords a deeper understanding of underlying mechanisms. Modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have made it possible to avoid the capitalist apocalypse but have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality – or in any case not as much as one might have imagined in the optimistic decades following World War II.

Book Reviews

"Very occasionally abookcomes along that changes the way we think about the world. Thomas Piketty’s new book (a translation of last year’s French edition) is a publishing sensation that has caused a stir among economists and the commentariat alike." The Telegraph

"The big idea ofCapital in the Twenty-First Centuryis 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." The New York Review of Books

"Piketty's argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father's bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: itis the system working normally." The Guardian

"Piketty deserves huge credit for kickstarting a debate about inequality and illuminating the distribution of income and wealth. But when it comes to the forces driving growth and wealth accumulation in our modern economy what he has probably done most to bring out into the open is our collective ignorance and confusion." The Guardian

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Wisdom to Share

The distribution of wealth is one of today’s most widely discussed and controversial issues.

Intellectual and political debate about the distribution of wealth has long been based on an abundance of prejudice and a paucity of fact.

The distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers. It is of interest to everyone, and that is a good thing.

The concrete physical reality is visible to the naked eye and naturally inspires sharp but contradictory political judgments.

Democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts – and that is a very good thing.

Whenever one speaks about the distribution of wealth, politics is never very far behind, and it is difficult for anyone to escape contemporary class prejudices and interests.

When the rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy, then it logically follows that inherited wealth grows faster than output and income.

But extreme inequality should not be ignored – or worse, celebrated as a sign that we have a high-performing economy and healthy society. Yes, some level of inequality is built in to capitalism.

The sole purpose of revisiting capitalism is to draw from the past a few modest keys to the future.