"After Piketty" Publication Day

Must-Read: Thomas Piketty on After Piketty http://amzn.to/2qgPIRE. If I were running the publicity campaign for this book of ours, I would—today—broadcast two (or three) of the chapters for free in an attempt to excite interest while at the same time demonstrating that we are not simply broadcasting exciting teaser trailers from a boring movie—because each full chapter does have its own, complete, payoff. If it were up to me, I would probably grab our introduction and then either Goldhammer or Naidu, but that reflects my concerns right now rather than any objective government...

Since we are not doing that, let me broadcast an exciting teaser trailer from the last chapter of the book:

Thomas Piketty*: Lessons from "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" http://amzn.to/2qgPIRE: "I would like to see Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a work-in-progress of social science...

...Too much time is lost... on petty quarrels about boundaries and... sterile methodological positions.... The best way... is to address big issues and see how far we can take them, using whatever combination of methods and disciplinary traditions seems appropriate.... [Here] I would simply like to attempt to clarify a small number of issues... from the perspective of the multidimensional history of capital and power relations, and regarding the role played by belief systems and economic models in my analysis....

The primary ambition... was to present... historical material coherently... and [to] propose... an analysis of the economic, social, political, and cultural processes... to return the issues of distribution and the inequalities between social classes to the center of economic, social, and political thought... [as in] the works of Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx... motivated by the profound social changes they perceived around them.... Even though they did not have at their disposal systematic historical sources for studying such evolutions, these authors at least had the merit of asking the right questions.

Throughout the twentieth century, economists all too often sought to remove themselves from the social sciences (an illusory temptation, if ever there was one) and to pass over the social and political foundations of economics. Some authors—particularly Simon Kuznets and Anthony Atkinson—nonetheless patiently embarked on the meticulous task of collecting historical data on the distribution of income and wealth. My research directly stems from these studies and has largely consisted of extending the collection of historical data....

Furthermore, in Capital I tried to... simultaneously study the evolution of collective representations of social inequality and money in both public debates and political conflicts as well as in literature and cinema. I am convinced that such an analysis of the systems of representations and beliefs about the distribution of income and wealth... is essential.... This... central interaction between belief systems and inequality regimes... should be studied more extensively.... I plan to further study [it] in the years to come....

I tried, for example, to show that national identities and the representations each country has of its own economic and historical trajectory play an important role.... In particular, the “Social Democratic Age in the Global North (1945–1980)” (as it is aptly labeled by Brad DeLong, Heather Boushey and Marshall Steinbaum in their introductory essay) can certainly be viewed as an unstable historical episode, but it is also a product of deep transformations in belief systems about capitalism and markets.

I fully agree with Marshall Steinbaum (Chapter 18) when he stresses that the World Wars and the Great Depression were decisive, not so much in themselves, but because they “discredited the ideology of capitalism in a way mere mass enfranchisement had been unable to do so [in the decades preceding World War I].” The crisis of the 1930s and the complete collapse of the European inter-state competition system during the two World Wars led to the end of the nineteenth-century political regime, which was based upon the laissez-faire ideology and the quasi-sacralization of private property. This radical change in dominant belief systems is of course nothing else than the “Great Transformation” http://amzn.to/2pW8exV famously analyzed by Karl Polanyi in... 1944...

Comments