CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Thomas Piketty
Kirkus Star

CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

KIRKUS REVIEW

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014




2014 KIRKUS PRIZE FINALISTS:

FictionTHE BLAZING WORLD by Siri Hustvedt
by Siri Hustvedt
FictionALL OUR NAMES by Dinaw Mengestu
by Dinaw Mengestu
FictionFLORENCE GORDON by Brian Morton
by Brian Morton
FictionTHE REMEDY FOR LOVE by Bill Roorbach
by Bill Roorbach
FictionTHE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters
by Sarah Waters

OUR CRITICS' TAKES ON MORE BESTSELLERS

See full list >
Cover art for PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO
VERDICT:
BORROW IT
Cover art for DEAD WAKE
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for ENDANGERED
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for 17 CARNATIONS
VERDICT:
SKIP IT

MORE BY ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER

NonfictionALGERIAN CHRONICLES by Albert Camus
by Albert Camus
FictionTHE MEASURE OF THE WORLD by Denis Guedj
by Denis Guedj

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHE GREAT DIVIDE by Joseph E. Stiglitz
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
NonfictionLOSING OUR WAY by Bob Herbert
by Bob Herbert
NonfictionTHE BRIGHT CONTINENT by Dayo Olopade
by Dayo Olopade