HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2018)

by Thomas Piketty

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,299663,404 (4.17)68
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 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.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 68 mentions

English (52)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
You don't have to agree with all of Piketty's ultimate conclusions and recommendations (and I am still processing them) to be blown away by the breadth of research and clarity of this important book. I'd recommend this work anyone interested in history, taxes, politics, and/or economics and finance. This book will forever change the way I look at the (past, present, and future) world. ( )
  dovetailer | Oct 6, 2022 |
This book was a major disappointment for me. After many years of intrigue in the title, I finally sat down to read it, and am unable to accept the author's portrayal of the data as reliable. As a matter of fact, I feel scammed after reading this book, and it makes me angry to get scammed, so I'm going to vent a little bit here because of it.

I couldn't get past the graphs. The graphs in this book are deceptive, and I don't just mean slightly; they are highly misleading!

If it wasn't already enough of a joke for the author to attempt to rationalize why it is that what appear as equal distances of time on a grid may range anywhere from ten to two hundred and fifty years, then surely presenting them in such fashion was done with comedic intent, and surely, the author knows much better than to habitually reference the same deceptive graphs, and draw conclusions for future hypotheses from them, especially since we've established that they are a joke in the first place! (You see, I'm being a bit sarcastic here - because that's what Pickory did!)

To read this book, you need to be able to accept the author's rationale for the seemingly skewed data, and look past the deception, i.e. ignore it, never notice it, etc., which I'd like to have been able to do because many of the author's conclusions surrounded my initial intrigue in the title, but I could not; given the title's popularity, I seem to be one of the very few unable to suspend disbelief in order to allow for a deceptive presentation of data to inform my conception of political economy, which is surprising...

Although I'm not entirely sure how complete or helpful much of the data the author draws from actually is, the real trouble isn't the data itself; it is how the researcher chose to present the data. It's not inaccurate or wrong; it's illusory and deceptive, sneaky-like, and the only reason I hesitate to call it all bollocks is because I'm not a British citizen, resident, or national; I feel sure, however, that the representations of data in this book are bollocks enough for anyone in the world to be able to call them out as such!

The imbalance of the graphs alone undermines any argument based upon them, and the red flag of statistical error confirming a sampler's bias is so flagrant and egregious that I wonder if it was done intentionally in order to undermine public intelligence, just to go ahead and nip a reasonable argument for a revolutionary mindset that could upset the status quo in the bud, so to speak; i.e. Plinkett's argument is simply too easily debunked and/or exploited; if I can point out the error, then anyone should be able...

So why was this book so esteemed? I don't know... I'd guess the ideas presented and drawn from the 'conclusions' must have already been devised, with the 'conclusions' themselves already reached, well before any data was examined; the book's popularity was likely ordained before any ink went onto paper, or any key was pressed to appear as a letter on a screen in contribution to the book. I wouldn't be surprised if the documentary film deal was already inked before a word was absorbed in alleged 'research,' much less put into print... and I'm really stretching it there... Honestly, I'm probably wrong about the latter, at very least, but possibly 'right enough' for it to behoove me to go ahead and throw it out there... Could it be? Yes! Was it? Who knows?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking something along the lines of me belonging in the same sentence as a lexical item representing all that I am not, idiot, and be that as it may, I'm not saying that it's an overall awful book, simply one that bases many of its conclusions on faulty premises based on shoddy, conveniently manipulated, and often skewed presentations of data, i.e. one that should not have been published and/or should not have been taken seriously; there's a glass ceiling to the bogeyman in this book, and it's crystal clear!

It may be a rather good book. The author's conclusions, which I like, may hold on their own, and certainly aren't wrong; there's simply no fairly presented and reliable data to back most of them up; that's the troubling part... The author inundates us with data, and claims it is this trove of data that gives his work the edge over previous works in political economy; my reading of it tells me that the data itself hurts his argument more than it helps; he would have been better off not using any than so flagrantly manipulating what he had, and in turn, he gives us a textbook on how to manipulate data, so much so that I'd bet this book sells better as an example of what not to do in statistics classes than as a manual for what to do in political economy as we inch nearer to the close of the twenty first century. That is not to say that the gutless statistician won't find this an extremely useful manual.

Pickery, or whomever it is, tells us in the prologue, or introduction, somewhere, that the first chapters are for dummies, essentially, and writes that expert economists may skip these chapters; they are there to lay the groundwork for later chapters, and would be redundant for an economist. Despite many a credo to the contrary, I fashioned myself just shy of the professionalism required to skip the chapters (a dummy,) and after dropping my jaw in disbelief that so many pages could follow so many unreliable models presented to readers, I put the book down; if that stuff is redundant to an economist, then I'd bet the whole damned field is a scam! So, here's my confession: I get it.

Yay for me! When I say I get it, I mean that I know why Pikennen decided to manipulate the data like that, and it has nothing to do with all of that stuff he rationalizes to readers, i.e. censuses, historical events, etc.; he did it so that the data would form a bell curve, and to add insult to undermine the injury to the reader, he did it AFTER criticizing Malthusian economics, which should be more than criticized, and AFTER pointing to the bell curve as a blunder of sorts, a cash out, proper, to appease those with wealth, and perhaps, lacking understanding. Then, Plinko proceeds to grossly manipulate his data so that it forms a bell curve... Ironic? I'd guess not. Maybe since all of modern economic theory in the West is based on some unrealistic notion of self-regulating bell curves it was necessary, and is frequently so, for economists to manipulate their data to form one? Beats me... I don't know! The bottom line is that the data exploited to form many of the bell curves referenced in this work, doesn't form a bell curve at all! (If presented fairly) Maybe that's just the point...

Honest review: this book gave me a headache, was dry, and made me angry, yet I initially had trouble putting it down until after I kept seeing the same misleading graphs, and finally had enough. Thanks for letting me review! I feel much better now!

Public plea to defend my criticism of the author: Piccolo saw enough success on this book that my review won't hurt a thing, and he'll probably never read this, so he shouldn't get his feelings hurt by it... and not to make excuses for gaining relief by critique at the expense of his work, bear in mind that his work also contributed to causing the condition for which it is necessary to vent. Whew! Decent book! Not well argued. Good ideas! Nothing revolutionary. Deal with it! ( )
  Reverend | Aug 1, 2022 |
Thomas Piketty looks at income and wealth inequality from a historic perspective that is more data driven than most analyses. Other than part 4, the book is largely apolitical. Piketty has political perspectives, and they come up occasionally in the first three part of the books, but he does not let ideology distract him from making an argument strongly rooted in historical data. He also does not push conclusions further than the data can bear. For example, most of his analysis is based on data from France, Britain, and the US since they have the best records over the last couple hundred years. He considers how far his conclusions can be applied to the rest of the world but makes it clear that the conclusions are not nearly as firm.

Because this is a detailed historical analysis, the book actually has only a few truly central takeaway points. The bulk of the text explains the implications of these takeaways and provides robust support for them.

One takeaway, which I consider the least important but start with because it is one of the most publicized, is that Piketty argues in part 4 that a global tax on capital is the most just way to control the increase of wealth inequality in the twenty-first century. He also, as is less publicized, notes explicitly that this is an ideal that likely can only be approximated right now. However, really understanding why he argues for a global tax on capital requires understanding the other key takeaways.

The second key takeaway--and if you remember only one, it is this--is that the mid-twentieth century was economically weird. We like to think that the growth in the mid-twentieth century was due to the growth in technology and productivity. Yet earlier periods of high growth in technology and productivity did not give such high levels of economic growth. And throughout most of human history, as far as we can tell, the economic growth rate was very low and dominated by demographic growth with no significant increase in per capita productivity. In particular, as far as we can tell, throughout most of history, the rate of return on capital was larger than the growth rate.

The mid-twentieth century inverted this logic. Rates of return on capital were approximately stable with overall averages of 4-5%. However, the rate of economic growth was quite high. When you look at economic data from before and after WWI and WWII, it is pretty clear that this growth is catch up growth making up for the massive economic destruction wrought by the two wars and the period between them. After that destruction, high demographic and productivity growth led to economic growth rates that were higher than the rate of return on capital. Thus, for a short period, it looked as if a world of theoretically meritocratic labor income would prevail over a world where capital, and especially inherited capital, dominated the upper levels of wealth and income.

The practical upshot of this is that any time economic data from the present is being compared to economic data from approximately 1950-1980, you should be suspicious. This is not a normative statement. The economic growth of the mid-twentieth century was great for the bulk of people whose income comes primarily from labor. But that period was not a new normal, it was making up for the destruction which came before. As an aside, for a similar reason, we should not assume that the huge economic growth that less economically rich countries are seeing is going to last forever or reflects some fundamental better way of doing things. Rather, much of this is due to demographic growth plus catch-up productivity growth.

The third key takeaway is that with economic growth rates slowing down again (to rates closer to 2% per year which is still historically high but lower than the mid-twentieth century), the average rate of return on capital once again exceeds the economic growth rate -- (r > g). This seemingly simple inequality has large implications for wealth and income inequality.

There are a couple ways to think about the implications of this inequality. First, consider a fixed stock of capital where all of the capital income is spent each year. When the economy is growing, the relative economic value of that capital income shrinks each year--is essence, the fortune is shrinking without shrinking. If the rate of return on capital is greater than the growth rate, this effect is slowed. The fortune still becomes worth relatively less over time, but the higher rate of return on capital means that the impact takes longer to be felt.

Now consider the situation where part of the capital income is reinvested each year. If (r g)--if the rate of return on capital is greater than the growth rate. In that case, the percentage invested can equal the growth rate, then the fortune keeps the same relative size as the economy grows. And if the amount reinvested is greater than the growth rate, then the fortune will grow relative to the growth of the economy. The larger the amount of total capital income someone is, the more likely they will be to be able to reinvest a larger percentage of it.

In plain English, when the rate of return on capital is greater than the economic growth rate, then it is likely that wealth will grow more quickly than the economy. Furthermore, the more that someone has, the easier it is for their wealth to grow at a greater rate. No matter how meritocratic the initial acquisition of wealth was, when the rate of return on capital is higher than economic growth, large amounts of capital tend to grow in ways that increase income inequality over time. The rich become richer and the poor become (relatively) poorer.

This cannot go on forever. If there is too much capital in the system, the rate of return will eventually fall because the marginal productivity of individual units of capital will decrease. However, there is no fundamental reason why this cannot continue until capital's share of income dwarfs labor's share of income.

This becomes even more worrisome given that wealth is (and always has been) very unequally distributed. Even in the rich countries studied (France, Britain, and the US), about half the population has no net wealth at all. Much of the rest has wealth mostly in the form of their primary residence. More liquid forms of wealth are concentrated in the upper echelons. Even within those upper echelons, the top 1% pulls far ahead of the next 9%, and the top 0.1% pulls far ahead of the rest of the top 1%. Combine this uneven distribution with the tendency of wealth to become more concentrated when the growth rate is low and you have a formula for the top of the wealth hierarchy to own a greater and greater percentage of total wealth, leaving less and less for everyone else.

Coming back to the first point, this is why Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth. The purpose of the tax is to try to provide a break on the spiral of inequality that is present when the rate of return on capital is greater than the growth rate. Without some brake--whether this or something else--odds are high that capital will become increasingly concentrated because of structural reasons (rather than because of any inherit skill in investing and innovation on the part of the owners of capital).

So remember, the mid-twentieth century was weird and the world of wealth inequality we are returning to is one that seems to represent a natural outcome of the forces of capital growth and economic growth if intentional checks are not put in place. Market forces are not enough to fix this without the aid of political will to disrupt the mechanisms of wealth divergence. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
This is an excellent book and one to be read a few times. In the concluding section of the book, Thomas Piketty admitted some of his conclusions are tenuous and should be debated. This is rare for an author, and this adds value.

His arguments have been laid out systematically, and he has analyzed those countries where he has detailed data. This includes four nations in the West, and he admits that data in China and India is sketchy.

The book starts with the first principles and the fundamental 'laws' of capitalism. From there on, he puts his arguments forward in brilliant fashion. It may seem disconcerting when he refers to some of the old books by Tomas Hardy and Emily Bronte, but he did so to illustrate the differences in the society of those times versus our own.

From here, he goes deeper into his arguments, and it is possible to follow the arguments even if you are not an economist. However, this is a book that demands time and patience.

It is well worth the read, and gives excellent insights into the problems of inequality we face in the world today. ( )
  RajivC | Jun 18, 2022 |
Dette er et SF review
  runepalm | Mar 21, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
The core message of this enormous and enormously important book can be delivered in a few lines: Left to its own devices, wealth inevitably tends to concentrate in capitalist economies. There is no “natural” mechanism inherent in the structure of such economies for inhibiting, much less reversing, that tendency. Only crises like war and depression, or political interventions like taxation (which, to the upper classes, would be a crisis), can do the trick. And Thomas Piketty has two centuries of data to prove his point.
added by eromsted | editBookforum, Doug Henwood (Apr 1, 2014)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Piketty, ThomasAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldhammer, ArthurTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bornstein, DeanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Estany, ImmaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galup, GracielaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marfany, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parés, NúriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
"Social distinctions can be based only on common utility." -Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, article 1, 1789
Dedication
First words
On August 16, 2012, the South African police intervened in a labor conflict between workers at the Marikana platinum mine near Johannesburg and the mine's owners: the stockholders of Lonmin, Inc., based in London. (Chapter 1)
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
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 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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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 and shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities. He argues, however, that the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth will generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values if political action is not taken. - from library description
Haiku summary
Inequality/It is the name of the game/Redistribution (waitingtoderail)

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.17)
0.5
1 3
1.5
2 6
2.5 2
3 31
3.5 18
4 133
4.5 30
5 106

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 180,125,683 books! | Top bar: Always visible