Capital in the twenty-first century / Thomas Piketty ; translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

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    • Abstract:
      Summary: 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 this work the author 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 transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality. He 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 if political action is not taken. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, the author says, and may do so again. This original work reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.
    • Content Notes:
      Introduction -- Income and capital : Income and output ; Growth: illusions and realities -- The dynamics of the capital/income ratio : The metamorphoses of capital ; From old Europe to the new world ; The capital/income ratio over the long run ; The capital-labor split in the twenty-first century -- The structure of inequality : Inequality and concentration: preliminary bearings ; Two worlds ; Inequality of labor income ; Inequality of capital ownership ; Merit and inheritance in the long run ; Global inequality of wealth in the twenty-first century -- Regulating capital in the twenty-first century : A social state for the twenty-first century ; Rethinking the progressive income tax ; A global tax on capital ; The question of the public debt -- Conclusion.
    • Notes:
      Translation of the author's Le capital au XXIe siècle.
      Includes bibliographical references and index.
    • Other Titles:
      Capital in the 21st century.
      Capital au XXIe siècle. English
    • ISBN:
      9780674430006 (alk. paper)
      067443000X (alk. paper)
    • Accession Number:
    • Accession Number:
    • Accession Number:


PW Reviews 2014 November #1

The rich get richer, through no fault—or virtue—of their own, according to this sweeping study of wealth in the modern world. Economist Piketty's formula "r > g" expresses the simple but profound insight that because the returns on capital—interest on savings, stock dividends and appreciation, rent from a farm or apartment building—usually exceed the economy's growth rate, wealth (especially inherited wealth) tends to grow faster than wages and become more concentrated at the top of the income scale, and the economy increasingly caters to rich elites instead of ordinary workers. (The best antidote to this inexorable tendency, he argues, is a direct progressive tax on wealth.) Piketty makes his case with three centuries' worth of economic data from around the world organized in a trove of detailed but lucid tables and graphs. This is a serious, meaty economic treatise, but Piketty's prose (in Goldhammer's deft translation) is wonderfully readable and engaging, and illuminates the human reality behind the econometric stats—especially in his explorations of the role of capital in the novels of Jane Austen and Balzac. Full of insights but free of dogma, this is a seminal examination of how entrenched wealth and intractable inequality continue to shape the economy. (Mar.)

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