Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 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 inequalityâe"the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growthâe"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.

Publisher: Cambridge Massachusetts :, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,, 2014.
ISBN: 9780674430006
Characteristics: viii, 685 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Goldhammer, Arthur - Translator

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p
pm221
Aug 01, 2017

A surprisingly quick and enjoyable read for nearly 600 pages of economics. The author takes pains to work slowly and carefully through his exposition, and the translation is absolutely pellucid. An invaluable counterpoint to the work of Angus Maddison on how misleading averages can be without close examination of the ends of the distribution.
No wonder it became a best seller.

1
1aa
Apr 25, 2016

This book has a lot to comment on -- too much for a little post like this. Mainly, the distributions of capital, income from capital (and its rates of return), income from labour (and its rates of increase), the general growth of the economy, the differences between them, and their long term historical trends, and the political consequences of these trends, is carefully examined, and various policies for dealing with the problems these give rise to, are advocated for. The writing, or probably just the translation, is rather flat and dry (its certainly nothing like A. Smith), but it serves its purpose. I found frustrating the constant reference - in the notes! - to go to the online technical appendix, especially near the end of the book.

d
dannnn
Oct 01, 2015

Left wing clap trap. Scan it to see what europe has to say about using our money.

h
HowardWilliams
Feb 21, 2015

Every politician and hopeful should read this book and take account of the strong messages in it.

m
mclarjh
Feb 03, 2015

Very well written. The last section, where the author offers suggestions for solving the inequity of capital problem, is the weakest. Few Canadians, I think, are familiar with the ¨pay as you go¨ pension plan proposed and defended by the author. And Canada has no current tax on gifts or inheritances, as contrasted with Europe and other jurisdictions. A must read for the Idle no more movement and the social anarchists, a hope that won´t be realized I´m afraid; some prefer rhetoric to fact.

r
rpavlacic
Dec 08, 2014

This is not a book for the faint of heart. The reading level is at a first level university. Looking at historical information in twenty countries, the author has a damning indictment of money today. If you want to know why capitalist economies rise and fall, this is the book for you. Of note is how there is a definite link between the gap between extreme wealth and poverty in one country on one hand, and the ability to weather a recession on the other, the bigger the gap, the rougher the recession will be. The author also warns this gap may be eating away at the heart of democracy. This book is an attempt to reunite what has recently been two largely separate fields - economics and political science, back into what was once known as political economy. A well thought out theory but as with any theory it should not necessarily be taken at face value.

skidrick Nov 30, 2014

Serious intellectual work explaining why the 50's and 60's aren't coming back, but gets a little muddy on policy prescriptions

d
diaparalectdoxical
Nov 29, 2014

This is a hugely important book that surpasses what I'd expected. Written in simple language, accessible to anyone and in a calm, non-demonstrative voice, Piketty lays out the problem of crushing inequalities, warns of an increasingly dystopic future for us if we don't wrestle the monster to the ground and offers a practical (if seemingly far-fetched at this time) solution.

debwalker Sep 22, 2014

From the "well, you never know"-bestseller department -
http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/21/-sp-thomas-piketty-bestseller-why

v
voisjoe1_0
Sep 20, 2014

In this work, French economist Thomas Piketty has amassed an incredible wealth of time series empirical data of the developed countries (France, Britain, USA, and Germany) dealing with the inequality of income and wealth of the upper 1% and 10%. This book contains numerous graphs, many from 1770 to present day, many which show that except for the period between the two world wars, the capitalistic system tends toward very dangerous levels of concentration of income and wealth for the top 10%, 1%, and 0.1%. For example, the share of the top 10%’s income has been as high as 48% just before the 1929 depression and is now again between 45% and 50%, with no sign that the concentration of wealth is slowing down. One of the factors leading to this wealth disparity is that the wealthiest investors are able to reap gains of an average of 5-8%, while the average citizen gains from 0% to 2%. Without government intervention or world wars or depressions, there is absolutely nothing to eliminate the very high levels of inequality.

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