Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 2014
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Analyzes a collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns, transform debate, and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.
Publisher: Harvard Univ Pr 2014
Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780674430006
Branch Call Number: 332. 041 PIK
Characteristics: viii, 685 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Goldhammer, Arthur - Translator


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Sep 13, 2020

I read this book several years ago, before I knew that TCCL had this site where I could see what other people were reading and what they thought about it. And then I could create my own little piece of it. This process has suggested several books and authors to me, and I hope that I have been able to return the favor. In reviewing my list, I discovered that I had not commented on this book but found a comment from a reader in the Seattle Public Library who suggested reading Perelman’s “Invention of Capitalism.” I thank that reader.
While I found “Capital in the 21st Century” easy reading (I enjoyed the math, which Piketty really dumbed down), Perelman’s book was more difficult. It covers classical economic theory, a subject I have avoided since Econ I many years ago, and the book has not even a saving grace hint of math. Still, I was able to grasp the concept of primitive accumulation. Perelman’s discussion of the Game Laws clarified a mystery that I have long held about foxhunting and other so-called sport in England. His analysis of England’s treatment of its conquests is an indictment of British Imperium. Examples include India, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and the American colonies. Having recently read Keefe’s “Say Nothing,” I had no illusions about England’s dealings with the Irish, but Perelman’s sources make clear that Industrial Revolution-era English saw the Irish as less than human and discussed genocide quite calmly.
A large part of Perelman’s argument hinges on the value of land. Many of the sources he quotes suggest that the relative cheapness of land in colonies held by European powers militated against the growth of capitalism in those colonies. He specifically discusses the lack of wage laborers in America due to the availability of land. He talks about sending convicts to Australia and the reasons they were sent. Of course, he is probably not aware of the tremendous damage that exporting British ideas about land use to Australia caused. Read Flannery’s “The Future Eaters” for more on that topic.
While the book is largely an assault on Adam Smith’s self-contradictions, Perelman has done an excellent job of addressing the origin myths of modern capitalism.
Piketty and Perelman each deserve at least 4.5 stars.

Jun 25, 2019

I'm so sure about this book, I was looking for a comprehensive history on capital and how capitalism works today and how to succeed today. But then we get this theme of "we shouldn't have a disparity of capital between the rich and the poor". Let's think about that logically, inequality in funds is normal. People are paid for specialized work, different jobs require different amounts of skill, so funds will always be unequal. Raising the minimum wage will only make food and regular amenities even harder for the lower class to buy, so that doesn't work. I wanted this book to help shed some light on how capitalism can be very self-serving and how to avoid said tendencies and how capitalism can be a big motivator for altruism since giving money or spending it makes the economy go, and that's what every business man and woman wants. But no, let's talk about things we already know, like people get paid different wages for different jobs. I'm skeptical, this may be politically motivated.

Feb 12, 2019

the growing disparity between rich and poor is a serious problem, but giving a bunch of slippery politicians a tax-funded windfall is unlikely to be the solution

Aug 01, 2017

A surprisingly quick and enjoyable read for nearly 600 pages of economics. The author takes pains to work slowly and carefully through his exposition, and the translation is absolutely pellucid. An invaluable counterpoint to the work of Angus Maddison on how misleading averages can be without close examination of the ends of the distribution.
No wonder it became a best seller.

Apr 25, 2016

This book has a lot to comment on -- too much for a little post like this. Mainly, the distributions of capital, income from capital (and its rates of return), income from labour (and its rates of increase), the general growth of the economy, the differences between them, and their long term historical trends, and the political consequences of these trends, is carefully examined, and various policies for dealing with the problems these give rise to, are advocated for. The writing, or probably just the translation, is rather flat and dry (its certainly nothing like A. Smith), but it serves its purpose. I found frustrating the constant reference - in the notes! - to go to the online technical appendix, especially near the end of the book.

Oct 01, 2015

Left wing clap trap. Scan it to see what europe has to say about using our money.

Feb 21, 2015

Every politician and hopeful should read this book and take account of the strong messages in it.

Feb 03, 2015

Very well written. The last section, where the author offers suggestions for solving the inequity of capital problem, is the weakest. Few Canadians, I think, are familiar with the ¨pay as you go¨ pension plan proposed and defended by the author. And Canada has no current tax on gifts or inheritances, as contrasted with Europe and other jurisdictions. A must read for the Idle no more movement and the social anarchists, a hope that won´t be realized I´m afraid; some prefer rhetoric to fact.

Dec 08, 2014

This is not a book for the faint of heart. The reading level is at a first level university. Looking at historical information in twenty countries, the author has a damning indictment of money today. If you want to know why capitalist economies rise and fall, this is the book for you. Of note is how there is a definite link between the gap between extreme wealth and poverty in one country on one hand, and the ability to weather a recession on the other, the bigger the gap, the rougher the recession will be. The author also warns this gap may be eating away at the heart of democracy. This book is an attempt to reunite what has recently been two largely separate fields - economics and political science, back into what was once known as political economy. A well thought out theory but as with any theory it should not necessarily be taken at face value.

skidrick Nov 30, 2014

Serious intellectual work explaining why the 50's and 60's aren't coming back, but gets a little muddy on policy prescriptions

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