A must-read, I think


Comrade Paine is going to give us a better-informed response to this book than I can manage. I have just begun reading it and although it is very thick and heavy, and a bit frightening on that account, it is also written in a lucid, jargon-free, down-to-earth and rather droll style. I am enjoying it very much.

Piketty asserts for himself a kind of coy non-Marxism, and I’m sure he’s not being dishonest. As far as I can tell, he approaches his subject without Marxist theoretical commitments. But he is respectful to the Moor, and suggests we might have something to learn from his way of approaching the matter.

His title — CAPITAL in the 21st century — is unmistakably an hommage to our old hero. The Belknap Press, his American publisher (alas, a tentacle of Harvard) has driven the point home with a lot of red on the cover. They’ve also printed it on nice paper, and the typeface is easy on the eye, which matters when you have 600 pages before you.

The book seems to be fresh, original, un-dogmatic, and rather impressively fact-based, unlike most economic writing. I kinda think it’s going to be pretty important. Not just a nine-days-wonder. Check it out.

16 thoughts on “A must-read, I think

  1. You’re Ashiting Me Michael!

    Like I’ma gonna read 600 pages of some pseudo-Marxist prophesy? The Marx Man had a few bright ideas, but got bogged down in wacky prophesy way often.

    I will not read anything longer than 60 pages on principle. If they can’t get it across in 60 pages or less, well.

    With so much spare time on my hands, I do notice that Portland Indymedia is down. The site has been down (though intermittently up) for about a week. There are no equalitarian blogs for me to post to, other than this!

    All been wiped out! All that remains are “libertarian” blogs. This “libertarian” concept was bought and paid for by the von Mises’ billionaire backers 100 years ago. You don’ta believe just check out:


  2. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve read thus far, and the fact that he’s a rock star — and a French academic no less — and that his 600-page economics tome has been flying off the shelves (physical and virtual), says something about Where We Are right now. Something very Occupy.

    I’ve read many useless, substance-free, ad hominem criticisms of the book. Though I did find elements of this critique compelling:


  3. Piketty and his colleagues have been amassing remarkable data on income and wealth inequality for quite awhile now. These data put the lie to much of neoclassical economics, whose practitioners Piketty mocks as knowing nothing about anything. For this alone, Piketty must be read. One thing we know for sure, given the data and the mechanisms at play that will exacerbate the growth in inequality, is that the future will be one of growing social dislocation and conflict. Every bad thing that is happening will get worse. Inequality has a pernicious impact on everything from health to housing patterns to environmental health.

    • Yes, and education as well — a favorite topic in these parts, I know! I find the very existence of this book — and the stir it’s creating — encouraging in and of itself. Just as I did the very existence of Occupy.

  4. Blues
    read the 35 page introduction in a book store

    And read a few reviews

    The link up to the 99 % v I % is clear

    The great compression of mid. 20 th century well data fied

    The distinction between
    Job income polarization and wealth polarization
    Well maintained
    And a set of spontaneous tendencies of systems driven by private capital
    Well outlined

    And a nice call for global Capital and wealth taxation
    Reading more is probably un necessary

    • Among the things I’m liking very much about it is the long view, stretching back to the late 17th century. There are other amiable qualities less easy to describe. For one thing, he doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind. I know, I’ve always said this is impossible; but if he does have one, he’s grinding it at a subaudible level. Piketty is certainly not in any sense a Marxist, but because he is unprejudiced, he honors Marx more in the breach than most Marxists do in the observance — actually takes him seriously as a thinker and interlocutor.

      Have I mentioned that he has a really nice plain but not dull prose style, and that he has been very very capably translated? I know, I’m shallow, but these things matter to me.

    • The great compression
      Seems less well outlined by P T

      His schema unfortunately has a bigger frame here
      That throws in the great war and the great depression
      With the great compression that launched it’s squeeze
      During the anti fascist crusade and ran into the kold wars first years

      With the great compression Roughly ending
      Here inside the Hegemon
      The arrival of types like jack Kennedy

      Bi partisan pro corporate “patriotic ”
      Jack asses

    • Okay, Ill try to read it like that.

      By the way, I have forever been urging a wealth tax. If we just tax income, it seems obvious that some of us will become unlimitedly wealthier than others. That’s crazy. (I wonder if he might mention score voting also?)

      Nobody listens to me 🙁

  5. The numbers on this are everywhere these days
    And the great inequality has it’s motivating
    Dynamic aggregate inequality
    R > G

    return to aggregate private capital
    Greater then( > )
    growth of economy wide out put

    We haven’t seen these big capitalist inherent “motion laws ”
    since the Ike era of the kold war
    With it’s discovery of class peace inducing
    Mutually establishing stylized laws
    Wage rates rising as fast as productivity
    profit rates stabilizing and running ahead into the indefinite future
    on a healthy but moderate plateau

    Capital deepening per head slowly subsiding

    And technical progress relentlessly driving us toward
    A globe free of dangerous material want and scarcity

    Ahh but these are darker laws
    Darker indeed
    More like another batch of motion laws
    Hot off the griddles of old Malthus and Davy Ricardo
    two hundred or so
    years ago

    Nothing here in piketty
    to warm a mildly progressive heart

    • Another of Piketty’s charms. Old Parson Malthus and Davey R. both allowed for metastable, non-converging outcomes — and so did the Moor. It sometimes seems that all of more recent economic theory is designed to exclude just that set of possibilities, in favor of Doctor Pangloss. That is another subject on which Piketty has open unprejudiced eyes. No Panglossian dogmata for him!

      • The Panglossian tendency
        Within the ” profession”
        Has it’s moments of doubt and shame

        One such moment hovers over
        Us chatter class heads now
        And had for some time

        In fact long enough to make the debut
        Piketty and his big book
        A happening

        I must say the emergence of a compact school of reformers has yet to coalesce around the
        Still nebulously apprehended
        “reversing pathological trends ” project
        So clearly served up by tom of paris
        in his MO ” kital ital in the age of flash Gordon”

        But some how
        Finding a mechanism at the state level
        Adequate to attack
        the vast and growing private capital pyramids
        Is on the public agenda

        A wealth tax
        A wage boom

  6. Coming soon to this site

    “Wealth work and capital”

    The inner mechanisms
    of wage based exploitation
    And their forceful impacts
    On a technically progressive planet

    Read it here first !

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