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Capital in the Twenty-First Centuryby Thomas Piketty
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Piketty, a prominent economist, explains the tendency in mature societies for wealth to concentrate in a few hands." The Economist
"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." Amy Merrick, New Yorker
"It is a great work, a fearsome beast of analysis stuffed with an awesome amount of empirical data, and will surely be a landmark study in economics." Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times
"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." The Week
"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." Paul Krugman, New York Times
The main driver of inequality — returns on capital that exceed the rate of economic growth — is again threatening to generate extreme discontent and undermine democratic values. Thomas Piketty's findings in this ambitious, original, rigorous work will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.
About the Author
Thomas Piketty is Professor at the Paris School of Economics.Arthur Goldhammer received the French-American Translation Prize in 1990 for his translation of A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution.
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