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Capital in the Twenty-First Century

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4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  14,678 Ratings  ·  1,338 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-Fi ...more
Hardcover, 685 pages
Published March 10th 2014 by Belknap Press (first published August 2013)
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Scott Rich Williams is incorrect. Piketty proposes the wealth tax instead of the property tax (although in addition to other taxes), because real estate…moreRich Williams is incorrect. Piketty proposes the wealth tax instead of the property tax (although in addition to other taxes), because real estate property would be included within the wealth tax. (less)
Julien V Because democracy allows every adult to express their ideas and interests. It is a political right, and a good thing *in itself*.

Experts are needed,…more
Because democracy allows every adult to express their ideas and interests. It is a political right, and a good thing *in itself*.

Experts are needed, because not everyone has the time, knowledge or capacity to process the complex data behind every economic policy. But experts in a particular field may have particular interests and thus misinterpret or misrepresent the majority's well-being.
(less)

Community Reviews

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Jeremy
May 02, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Given the amount of hype and misinformation around this book, I'll start by saying what Capital in the 21st century is not about.

This book is NOT:

1. A work of opinion journalism or punditry. Though, obviously, it does contain the views of its author
2. A prescriptive manifesto trying to explain how to utterly eradicate inequality worldwide, though its author does feel constructive steps can be taken to reduce such inequalities.
3. A work of Journalism written in response to the recession of 20
...more
Hadrian
It is a bad habit of mine to review good books with hyperbole, where I describe a merely good book as a fearsome work of art or a divinely revealed look at the nature of humanity. For here, I'll tone it down a bit: whether you agree with it or not, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a profoundly important book and will continue to dominate economic and policy discussions for years.

The very title is a provocation. The use of the word 'Capital' calls to mind Karl Marx's major investigation on
...more
Trevor
May 15, 2014 Trevor rated it really liked it
This book is basically the Harry Potter of Economics – I mean in terms of blockbuster sales and turning its author into a rock star. He is being credited with giving new life to the left. The book is very long. I’m not sure if you really need to read the whole thing, either. Depending on what you want to get out of this, you really could get by with reading the Introduction and the Conclusion. If that doesn’t seem enough, then you could read Chapter 14 and 15 – pretty much where he outlines his ...more
Scotty Wardle
May 02, 2014 Scotty Wardle rated it did not like it
It's amazing to me how often Marxism gets repackaged and sold as if it was something new. Piketty's book is a prime example of this. It attempts to resell the already disproven lie about post WWII growth being caused by taxing the rich when in fact very few of the wealthy elite actually paid the 70-90% tax rates. Post WWII growth was the result of the U.S. holding excess gold reserves from Europe and the Bretton Woods conference that made the U.S. dollar the world's reserve currency. Anyone who ...more
Emily
May 12, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing
This is my five stars of "this book changed the way I look at something," not five stars of flawlessness or five stars of thinking everyone in the world should read it. Since I didn't have an opinion before, it would be more accurate to say this book gave me a way of looking at the structure of wealth in economies over time.

First things first, for people who read reviews of the book rather than the book itself. This book is not about slamming the rich; Piketty doesn't talk very much about morali
...more
Darwin8u
Apr 10, 2014 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“Indeed, the distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers.”
― Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century

description

This is one of those scholarly books that seem to end up being accidental cultural markers of time and place. I'm pretty sure Piketty wanted his book to be read/discussed/debated, and Belnap/Harvard Press certainly wanted it to be bought. But, I'm pretty sure neither the author nor the publisher was expecting it
...more
Mark Skousen
May 29, 2014 Mark Skousen rated it did not like it
The Economist magazine rightly calls French professor Thomas Piketty the new Marx, although a watered-down version. Piketty’s bestseller (rated #1 on Amazon) is a thick volume with the same title as Karl Marx’s 1867 magnum opus, “Kapital.” The publisher, Harvard University Press, appropriately designed the book cover in red, the color of the socialist workers party.

Piketty cites Karl Marx more than any other economist, even more than Keynes. The professor barely mentions Adam Smith. Instead of t
...more
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب به نوعی پرفروش ترین کتاب در زمینهٔ "سرمایه" است.. امّا در این زمینهٔ خاص کتابی کاملاً تخصصی بوده و نیاز است که پیش از خواندنِ آن اطلاعاتی در موردِ نظام های سرمایه داری و سیاست های کشورهایِ مختلف در این خصوص و همچنین مطالعات در زمینهٔ اقتصاد و البته تاریخِ سیاسی ملل و جنگهای جهانی را نیز داشته باشید
تلاش من این است که در این ریویو تا جایی که میتوانم با بیانی ساده، مطالب را بیان کنم و البته تا پایان ریویو اطلاعاتِ خوب و مناسبی در خصوصِ "سرمایه" در اختیارِ شما ایرانیانِ خر
...more
Marvin King
Mar 16, 2014 Marvin King rated it it was amazing
Spoiler alert....

Holy smokes, this was a tour de force of political economy & economic history. Piketty explains why a tax on capital is so much preferable than taxes on income, the need for global cooperation and why inequality in America will only get worse unless policymakers address higher education affordability, tax policies, especially on inheritance, and minimum wage laws. A brutally long read, yet well worth the effort.
Lea Johnson
May 04, 2014 Lea Johnson rated it did not like it

Let us examine his principal conclusions and learn why so many people are seeing his vision as the answer to the world’s troubles.

He recommends:

Uniform global taxation
Confiscatory tax on inherited wealth
15% tax on capital
80% tax on annual incomes over US$500,000
Enforced transparency on all bank transactions
Overt use of inflation to redistribute wealth downwards

Why didn’t anyone else think of this brilliant plan?

Well actually, they did. In fact, the above is essentially the shopping list of the I
...more
Cody
Apr 13, 2015 Cody rated it it was amazing
While I do not necessarily agree with every conclusion that Piketty makes, he has undoubtedly done a remarkable amount of research that could significantly alter the fiscal debate (both here in the US and abroad). The capital versus labor income is a topic that you (unfortunately) do not hear politicians discuss in their debates. The comparisons from country-to-country were also very interesting for those of us who are not as familiar with tax policies in foreign countries. As we evolve into a m ...more
ΑνναΦ
Questo bellissimo, documentato e ben scritto saggio – ho molto apprezzato lo stile chiaro e estremamente divulgativo, che rimanda le tabelle più prettamente tecniche a margine e sul sito dell'autore, oltre che gli esempi letterari per mostrare l'evoluzione del capitale nella società occidentale, nei secoli – farà inacidire i neoliberisti che cercheranno in ogni modo di smantellarne l'impianto teorico. I fautori di Ludwig von Mises, Frederich von Hayek e i Chicago Boys cercheranno di smontarne le ...more
David M
Jun 06, 2015 David M rated it it was amazing
The introduction includes one of the most gratifying paragraphs ever written

To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences. Economists are all too often preoccupied with petty mathematical problems of interest only to themselves. This obsession with mathematics is an easy way of acquiri
...more
Aaron Thibeault
Mar 25, 2014 Aaron Thibeault rated it it was amazing
*A full executive summary of this book is available here: http://newbooksinbrief.com/2014/04/04...

The main argument: The unequal distribution of wealth in the developed world has become a significant issue in recent years. Indeed, the data indicate that in the past 30 years the incomes of the wealthiest have surged into the stratosphere (and the higher up in the income hierarchy one is, the greater the increase has been), while the incomes of the large majority have stagnated. This has led to a
...more
Randal Samstag
Feb 19, 2014 Randal Samstag rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Thomas Piketty is a relatively young economist who has spent most of his professional career teaching at the Paris School of Economics and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales after brief stints at MIT. He has collaborated with fellow École Normale Supérieure graduate Emmanuel Suez on comprehensive studies on income and wealth inequality. A chart of their data is a frequently-used graphic (the one that looks like the Golden Gate Bridge) in Robert Reich's current documentary film, Ine ...more
The American Conservative
"We are now in the realm of speculation, however, and that is a world in which Piketty, notwithstanding his headline-grabbing predictions, is uncomfortable. That is the novel strength of Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Although his book is theoretically thin and concludes with a political program that is simultaneously overfamiliar and quite unlikely to be enacted, Piketty has done an enormous service simply by compiling the amount of data that he has about how the predominance of wealth ha ...more
Owlseyes
Nov 12, 2014 Owlseyes marked it as to-read
Recommended to Owlseyes by: sanderist, the sand wrist





"I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honorable. They would do better to concentrate on reviving [economic] growth in France and Europe," Piketty told AFP*.





"César Birotteau,another Balzac character,made his money in perfumes.He was the ingeniuous inventor of any number of beauty products-Sultan's cream,Carminative Water, and so on-that Balzac tells us were all the rage in late imperial and Restoration France. But this was not enough for
...more
Kunal Sen
Aug 04, 2014 Kunal Sen rated it it was amazing
In a world that is increasingly blinded by ideological polarization, where we first decide what we believe we should believe in and then try to find facts to justify our cherished ideas, Piketty’s book comes as a surprise and a reminder that there is no substitute of good scholarship. The first requirement of honest scholarship is to be suspicious of all past ideas and question every single data source. Piketty does just that. He shows respect towards past economists while critically questioning ...more
Joe
Apr 25, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened-to
I will steal my short version review of this book from the fictional review of a "Cones of Dunshire" (Parks and Recreation) review: Punishingly intricate.

What makes this book so effective is what makes it such a difficult read: Math. Piketty shows his work by going through all of the statistical, economic, sociological, etc etc etc, data he could get his hands on. He correctly anticipated the criticism he would receive from the right wing and thusly he makes no claims without laying EXTENSIVE fo
...more
Bryan Alexander
Apr 17, 2014 Bryan Alexander rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, economics
This book has extraordinary presence on the American scene today. Reviewing it is tricky, since there are so many competitors, along with so much bad discussion.

Here, I won't summarize the tome, since others have already done so (Doug Henwood does the best job I've seen). Instead I'd like to note some key elements of content and style, which might be useful for other current or would-be readers.

(I already did this from a half-way point, so this post is really a revision taking into account the
...more
Nick Klagge
May 18, 2014 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
I finished this several weeks ago now, but with all of the reviews in the media, I keep putting off writing my own because I feel like it needs to be really good! I am going to avoid doing a comprehensive review, since you can read many of those on the internet. Instead, here are some of my idiosyncratic observations on the book:

-First, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject matter. Yes, it is long, but Piketty's writing (jointly, Goldhammer's translation) is ext
...more
Atila Iamarino
Dec 29, 2016 Atila Iamarino rated it really liked it
Uma longa, longa leitura sobre a distribuição de dinheiro atual. Piketty passa pela história dos países com uma economia mais bem documentada (principalmente Inglaterra e França, mais vários outros), naquela abordagem comparada do Porque Falham as Nações e As Origens da Ordem Política: Dos Tempos pré-humanos até à Revolução Francesa. E em seguida destrincha como acontece o acúmulo de capital na parcela mais rica da população, como esse acúmulo flutuou (diminuiu depois da Segunda Guerra e agora s ...more
Alexander
Mar 14, 2014 Alexander rated it it was amazing
Piketty will be picked apart in the months and years ahead, and his unprecedented depth of research will be turned against him where the holes in available documents exist. But he intended that criticism. The point of the book is to reshape the conversation, and that he has thoroughly achieved by forcing economists, politicians and the public to face the reality of income inequality and inherited wealth worldwide. Arthur Goldhammer deserves considerable credit for his English translation. The bo ...more
hayatem
Apr 12, 2017 hayatem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: أخرى
كيف ينشأ تراكم رأس المال وكيف يتم توزيعه؟ وماهي القوى المحرّكة الحاسمة في ذلك؟
وهل توماس بيكيتي حقاً كارل ماركس القرن الحادي والعشرين ؟

رأس المال في القرن الحادي والعشرين هو نتاج 15 عاما من البحث المستمر. الذي شمل على مدى ثلاثة قرون البلاد ذات الدخل المرتفع، مع أخذه بعين الاعتبار بالتاريخ السياسي والاقتصادي والاجتماعي وما صاحبه من تغييرات وتأثيرات انعكست على توزيع الدخل والثروة
( المساواة واللامساواة في توزيع الحقوق والفرص.) الذي لا يشكل تحدياً سياسياً واجتماعياً فقط بل اقتصادياً كذلك . ينتقد بيكيت
...more
Josh Friedlander
Nov 15, 2015 Josh Friedlander rated it really liked it
True or false? "Modern CEOs get paid far in excess of their actual contribution to the companies they run." Your feelings on this issue probably say a lot about what you feel about the economy, wealth inequality, and the merits of free markets in general. Top executives receiving huge salary packages for doing what seems like a pretty cushy job instinctively feels unjust to many - but then, no-one is forcing companies to pay such high salaries, so where exactly is the issue?

This sort of highligh
...more
Justin Evans
May 04, 2014 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-etc

Here are the first few paragraphs of my review; the full thing can be found at:

http://www.thepointmag.com/2014/polit...

***

Adam Smith’s invisible hand has always been the take-away from ECON 101. Smith used the phrase once, when arguing that states should not give a private company the monopoly over a domestic market. It would be wrong for the government, say, to force tea grown in Scotland onto everyone in the United Kingdom. It’s very difficult to grow tea in Scotland, so any tea that could be
...more
Lucas Bleicher
Nov 25, 2015 Lucas Bleicher rated it it was amazing
Being in the science field, I was always deeply annoyed by the prevalence of anti-scientific thought among so many economy pundits. Many ideas seemed completely dissociated from historical facts but were said to be true just because. To me they felt more like religion than science.

Piketty did a fenomenal work which completely repels that tendency. Each point discussed is thorougly based on real facts, not dogma. As in the best science cases, he shows a convergence of conclusions based on orthogo
...more
Grzegorz Chrupała
May 10, 2014 Grzegorz Chrupała rated it it was amazing
The idea in Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that in most circumstances the return on capital is larger than the growth rate of the economy. This in turn means that wealth generates wealth faster than labor does, so the resources of a society become concentrated in large fortunes passed from generation to generation.

This dynamic can be interrupted by major shocks such as hyperinflation and war, as happened in the first part of the twentieth century. More recently, however, the developed wo
...more
Lou
Oct 10, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay
Excellent ouvrage, au sujet bien plus vaste que ses précédents livres. Il faut bien admettre que l'argumentation est solide et convaincante et la distance prise avec les différentes chapelles de l'économie rafraîchissante. Piketty nous épargne les théories tordues et les commentaires pontifiants si souvent présents dans son domaine pour se concentrer exclusivement sur les faits. Je ne suis personnellement pas capable de vérifier toutes les données qu'il donne mais les annexes semblent sérieuses ...more
Andrew
Nov 29, 2014 Andrew added it
Shelves: economics
The majority of economics that Americans are going to encounter is fairly limited-- the names Krugman, Friedman, Smith emerge, but to what extent do we know of their actual theoretical bases. Or their underlying assumptions about the economic endeavor?

Enter Thomas Piketty, who has somehow entranced American intellectual life-- not something that most authors of 600-page, data-driven treatises can do. In its practice, it's excellent social science, in that it Piketty is empirical, sober-minded, i
...more
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Thomas Piketty (French: [tɔma pikɛti]; born May 7, 1971) is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is the director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and professor at the Paris School of Economics. He is the author of the best selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), which emphasizes the themes of his work on wealth conc ...more
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“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” 40 likes
“Over a long period of time, the main force in favor of greater equality has been the diffusion of knowledge and skills.” 32 likes
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