Must-Read: The extremely-sharp Miriam Ronzoni excellently puts her finger on a substantial hole in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
Piketty starts, I think, from the observation that the French Second Empire and Third Republic--extraordinarily egalitarian in politics for white native-born males either as equal subjects of the Bonaparte dynasty or equal citizens of the Republic--were extraordinarily unfriendly to egalitarian economic measures. And, in addition, capital was able to adjust and rig the system of property rights in order to neutralize the forces of supply and demand that economists see as naturally making a high-capital economy a low-profit rate economy. Piketty strongly believes that a non-plutocratic society requires a low level of r-g, a low level of the difference between the profit rate r and the growth rate g. With r fixed save in times of societal catastrophe by the hegemonic power of capital even in political democracies, escape from plutocracy this hinges on boosting g, on a higher overall economic growth rate.
But, Ronzoni points out, this fatalistic analytical conclusion by Piketty has no impact on his suggested political strategy. A trust in Habermasian discourse and in the effectiveness of mobilization for social democracy appears out of thin air--both in the later pages of Piketty's text, and in his post-publication career as a public intellectual. It's not even "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will". It's simply a disconnect:
Where Are the Power Relations in Piketty’s Capital?: "My concern about Piketty’s proposal is that there seems to be a friction...:
...between the diagnosis offered in the rest of the book (which seems to draw a rather bleak picture of the power of capital in the early 21st century) and the suggested cure (which seems to rely on the optimistic hope that, once well-minded citizens will have recognized the problem, the only hurdle will be to find the right policy to fix it).... Piketty seems to hold on to a social-democratic [political] optimism... whereas his findings seem to push him in a different direction.... [By] ‘social-democratic optimism’ I mean... optimism about the role of policies and institutions in taming capital... [plus] the persuasion that... politics is fundamentally about is making citizens understand... and then they will be persuaded to do the right thing...