A New York Times #1 Bestseller An Amazon #1 Bestseller A Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller A USA Today Bestseller A Sunday Times Bestseller Winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award Winner of the British Academy Medal Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award ?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.? ?Paul Krugman, New York Times ?The book aims to revolutionize the way people think about the economic history of the past two centuries. It may well manage the feat.? ?The Economist ?Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an intellectual tour de force, a triumph of economic history over the theoretical, mathematical modeling that has come to dominate the economics profession in recent years.? ?Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post ?Piketty has written an extraordinarily important book?In its scale and sweep it brings us back to the founders of political economy.? ?Martin Wolf, Financial Times ?A sweeping account of rising inequality?Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore.? ?John Cassidy, New Yorker ?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.? ?Timothy Shenk, The Nation



ISBN: 9780674979857
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 816
Publication Date: 14 Aug 2017
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication City, Country: Cambridge, Mass., United States
Dimensions (cm): 21.6(H) x 14(L)



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 * New York Times *
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 * New Yorker *
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 *
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... 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 * 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 * 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 * 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 * New York Times *
Instantly influential... [Its] euphoric reception is richly merited... [Piketty's] chief intellectual accomplishment is to show how the basic forces of capitalism tend inevitably toward an ever-greater accumulation of wealth at the tip of the pyramid... Over the past couple decades, we have started to realize that capitalism is no longer delivering for the vast majority of people in most Western democracies. The middle class is being hollowed out, even as fortunes continue to grow at the very top. Piketty has now delivered the most empirically grounded, intellectually coherent explanation of what is going on... His masterwork... That's why the most successful societies of the 21st century will be the ones whose plutocrats read Piketty and help come up with the political answers to the economic forces he so powerfully describes. Piketty shows that the economics of the postwar era-when the West enjoyed strong, widely-shared growth-was a historical exception. For our Western democracies, it was also a political necessity. Capitalism is facing an existential challenge; smart plutocrats will be part of the solution. -- Chrystia Freeland * Politico *
Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century is the most important economics book of the year, if not the decade... Capital in the 21st Century essentially takes the existing debate on income inequality and supercharges it. It does so by asserting that in the long run the economic inequality that matters won't be the gap between people who earn high salaries and those who earn low ones, it will be the gap between people who inherit large sums of money and those who don't. -- Matthew Yglesias * Vox *
[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 * New York Review of Books *
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 *
About as close to a blockbuster as there is in the world of economic literature-easily the most discussed book of its genre in years. The central premise is provocative and profoundly bleak... Piketty challenges one of the underpinnings of modern democracies-namely, that growth and productivity make each generation better off than the previous one. -- Barrie McKenna * Globe and Mail *
Piketty has unearthed the history of income distribution for at least the past hundred years in every major capitalist nation. It makes for fascinating, grim and alarming reading... Piketty's book provides a valuable explanatory context for America's economic woes... Piketty gives us the most important work of economics since John Maynard Keynes's General Theory. -- Harold Meyerson * Washington Post *
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 Epoque 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 * 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 * 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 * New York Times Magazine *
Anyone remotely interested in economics needs to read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. -- Matthew Yglesias * Slate *
In its magisterial sweep and ambition, Piketty's latest work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is clearly modeled after Marx's Das Kapital. But where Marx's research was spotty, Piketty's is prodigious. And where Marx foresaw capitalism's collapse leading to a utopian proletariat paradise, Piketty sees a future of slow growth and Gilded Age disparities in which the wealthy--owners of capital--capture a steadily larger share of global wealth and income...Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an intellectual tour de force, a triumph of economic history over the theoretical, mathematical modeling that has come to dominate the economics profession in recent years. Piketty offers a timely and well-reasoned reminder that there is nothing inevitable about the dominance of human capital over financial capital, and that there is inherent in the dynamics of capitalism a natural and destabilizing tendency toward inequality of income, wealth and opportunity. -- Steven Pearlstein * Washington Post *
Though an heir to Tocqueville's tradition of analytic history, Thomas Piketty has a message that could not be more different: Unless we act, inequality will grow much worse, eventually making a mockery of our democratic institutions. With wealth more and more concentrated, countries racing to cut taxes on capital, and inheritance coming to rival entrepreneurship as a source of riches, a new patrimonial elite may prove as inevitable as Tocqueville once believed democratic equality was. This forecast is based not on speculation but on facts assembled through prodigious research...Private wealth has reached new highs relative to national income and is approaching levels of concentration not seen since before 1929...Piketty is rightly pessimistic about an immediate response. The influence of the wealthy on democratic politics and on how we think about merit and reward presents formidable obstacles...Perhaps with this magisterial book, the troubling realities Piketty unearths will become more visible and the rationalizations of the privileged that sustain them less dominant. Like Tocqueville, Piketty has given us a new image of ourselves. This time, it's one we should resist, not welcome. -- Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson * American Prospect *
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 *
Piketty's book is revolutionary. It rewrites the mission of economics, discarding claims that the discipline is a super-science of human behavior or public policy. Piketty wants to return his field to what the 19th century called 'political economy': a discipline about power, justice, and--also, but not first--wealth...[Piketty spoils] the longstanding conventional wisdom, supported by economics Nobel winners like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, plus lots of less controversial characters, that capitalism is democracy's best friend...It shows a world getting radically more unequal, the return of hereditary wealth, and--at least in the U.S.--an economy so distorted that much of what happens at the very top can be fairly described as class-based looting. And he gives some fairly strong reasons to suspect that this, not the relatively open and egalitarian economies of the mid-20th century, is what capitalism looks like... Reading it is like talking to a smart person who knows you're smart and knows, too, that you're not an economist...We've been spun a story: mainstream economics for the last 60-odd years has succored a complacent folk tale, albeit with lots of mathematical sophistication tacked on. Except for some discernible 'market failures,' it told us that all was for the best in this best of worlds. What you earn must be what you are contributing; otherwise, the market would step in to restore efficiency...Piketty reveals that these just-so stories have veiled urgent and inflammatory problems: capitalism produces self-accelerating inequality that corrupts both politics and culture and splits society into privileged rent collectors and everyone else, who must choose either to get halfway rich ministering to capital or to stay on the low end of the pole doing the humanly necessary work of teaching, nursing, keeping the utility wires humming, and so forth. Piketty's multi-century portrait of wealth and income obliterates economists' complacent narratives...Yet the period of shared growth in the mid-20th century was not just the aftermath of war and depression. It was also the apex of organized labor's power in Europe and North America, the fruit of many decades of organizing, not a little of it bloody, not a little under the flag of democratic socialism. Various crises cleared the ground, but the demands of labor, and an organized left more generally, were integral to building the comparatively egalitarian, high-wage world that came after the wars, with its strong public sector, self-assertive workers, and halfway tamed capital. There's a lesson we can learn here about what we might do to combat inequality, and how...Piketty shows that capitalism's attractive moral claims--that it can make everyone better off while respecting their freedom--deserve much less respect under our increasingly "pure" markets than in the mixed economies that dominated the North Atlantic countries in the mid-20th century...We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn't it. -- Jedediah Purdy * Los Angeles Review of Books *
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 * 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 online *
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 *
The book has made everyone with a stake in capitalism sit up and take notice...[Piketty's] analysis should challenge Americans to rethink our notions of wealth and poverty and whether any semblance of 'equal opportunity' actually exists...Piketty has made an important contribution. His book prompts the discerning person to evaluate anew the human and social costs of capitalism. The creative thinking of citizens is now required to combat the ills he has diagnosed. * America *
Capital in the Twenty-First Century is written in the tradition of great economic texts... Piketty and his colleagues have spent recent years putting together a World Top Incomes Database, their detailed investigation into income in countries around the globe, spanning several decades...Informed by this hist

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

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