Translated by Arthur Goldhammer
(Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2014)
Hardcover: 696 pages
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 analyses a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the 18th 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.
About the author
Thomas Piketty, PhD, is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is the director of studies at France’s École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) — the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences — and professor at the Paris School of Economics.
After being awarded his PhD at the age of 22, Piketty taught from 1993 to 1995 as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1995, he joined the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as a researcher, and in 2000 he became director of studies at EHESS.
Piketty won the 2002 prize for the best young economist in France. In 2006 he became the first head of the Paris School of Economics, which he helped set up. He left after a few months to serve as an economic advisor to Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal during the French presidential campaign.
In April 2012, Piketty co-authored along with 42 colleagues an open letter in support of then-Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency François Hollande. Hollande won the contest against the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in May of that year.