The Power of Piketty’s ‘Capital’

If you were among those who followed the reports on French economist Thomas Piketty’s US book tour in support of his university-press-published, 696-page, Marxism-tinged treatise on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and taxed your brain trying to recall a remotely recent antecedent for the ensuing excitement, well, relax—there isn’t any.

No less remarkable is the fact that one can, for once, believe the hype. Beautifully translated by Arthur Goldhammer, Piketty’s Capital is simultaneously intellectually rigorous, historically grounded, culturally nuanced and, in important respects, politically visionary. Even nitpicky economists who take issue with some of his interpretations of the mountains of data he and his colleagues assembled feel compelled to shower the book with praise beforehand—and frequently after as well. Paul Krugman credits Piketty with inspiring “a revolution in our understanding of long-term trends in inequality.”

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