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Toward a Political and Historical Economics Reflections on Capital in the Twenty-First Century

  • Thomas Piketty (a1)
Abstract

This article attempts to clarify certain points raised in my book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In particular, I try to lay the foundations for a multidimensional history of capital and power relations between social classes. I study the way different forms of ownership lead to specific structures of inequality and social and institutional compromises.

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References
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1. This use of “social sciences” is more akin to the expansive definition—common forty years ago in the United States and still prevalent in France—than the much narrower sense that seems to have become dominant in many English-speaking contexts today.—Annales .

2. I am extremely grateful to the Annales for having assembled these texts and to the authors for the attention and time they were willing to devote to my work.

3. In particular, see the following two foundational works: Kuznets, Simon, Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings (New York: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1953); Atkinson, Anthony and Harrison, Alan, Distribution of Personal Wealth in Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978). The different stages in the construction of the data assembled in my book are summarized in Piketty, Thomas, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Goldhammer, Arthur (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2014), 16–20 .

4. In particular, see: Simiand, François, Le salaire, l’évolution sociale et la monnaie. Essai de théorie expérimentale du salaire, introduction et étude globale (Paris: Alcan, 1932); Labrousse, Ernest, Esquisse du mouvement des prix et des revenus en France au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Dalloz, 1933); Bouvier, Jean, Furet, François, and Gillet, Marcel, Le mouvement du profit en France au XIXe siècle. Matériaux et études (Paris/The Hague: Mouton, 1965); and Daumard, Adeline, ed., Les fortunes françaises au XIXe siècle. Enquête sur la répartition et la composition des capitaux privés à Paris, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux et Toulouse d’après l’enregistrement des déclarations de successions (Paris/The Hague: Mouton, 1973).

5. See Piketty, Capital, 575–77.

6. In particular, see: Bourdieu, Pierre and Passeron, Jean-Claude, The Inheritors: French Students and their Relation to Culture, trans. Nice, Richard (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979); Bourdieu, and Passeron, , Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, trans. Nice, Richard (London: SAGE, 1990); and Baudelot, Christian and Lebeaupin, Anne, “Les salaires de 1950 à 1975 dans l’industrie, le commerce et les services” (Paris: INSEE, 1979).

7. In different registers, see, for example: Lamont, Michèle, Money, Morals and Manners: The Culture of the French and American Upper-Middle Class (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Beckert, Jens, Inherited Wealth, trans. Dunlap, Thomas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004; repr. 2008); Rosanvallon, Pierre, The Society of Equals, trans. Goldhammer, Arthur (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Naudet, Jules, Entrer dans l’élite. Parcours de réussite en France, aux États-Unis et en Inde (Paris: PUF, 2012).

8. Piketty, Capital, 20.

9. In particular, see the case of the conservative revolutions that took place in America and Britain, notably analyzed in ibid., chaps. 2 and 14.

10. Ibid., chaps. 8 and 13.

11. Ibid., chaps. 14 and 15.

12. Ibid., chap. 13. On the construction of the social state and the role of social spending in the reduction of inequality and the development process, see Lindert, Peter H., Growing Public: Social Spending and Economic Growth Since the Eighteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

13. Piketty, Capital, 47.

14. Ibid., chap. 4.

15. Ibid., chap. 5.

16. Ibid., chaps. 3–6.

17. Ibid., chap. 12.

18. Ibid., chaps. 1, 5, 12, 15, and 16.

19. Ibid., chaps. 3 and 4.

20. Ibid., chap. 16.

21. Barreyre, Nicolas, “Thomas Piketty in America,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 111–19 .

22. Stanziani, Alessandro, “Scales of Inequality: Nation, Region, Empire,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 99–109 .

23. Béguin, Katia, “From the Present to the Past: The Historical Dynamics of Wealth in Early Modern Europe,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 87–97 .

24. Monnet, Éric, “Money and Capital: The Contributions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century to Monetary History and Theory,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 33–44 .

25. Todeschini, Giacomo, “Servitude and Work at the Dawn of the Early Modern Era: The Devaluation of Salaried Workers and the ‘Undeserving Poor,’Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 77–85 .

26. Piketty, Capital, chaps. 11, 12, and 13.

27. A particularly distinct expression of this can be found in an astounding declaration by Émile Boutmy, who created the École libre des sciences politiques (commonly known as Sciences Po) in 1872 and set out its mission thus: “Obliged to submit to the rule of the majority, the classes that call themselves the upper classes can preserve their political hegemony only by invoking the rights of the most capable. As traditional upper-class prerogatives crumble, the wave of democracy will encounter a second rampart, built on eminently useful talents, superiority that commands prestige and abilities of which society cannot sanely deprive itself.” Cited in Piketty, Capital, 487.

28. Ibid., 485–86. Contrary to what Thévenot, Laurent seems to indicate in “You Said ‘Capital’? Extending the Notion of Capital, Interrogating Inequality and Dominant Powers,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 65–76 , I do not believe in the idea of equal opportunities, which is frequently a decoy enabling elite groups to sidestep the idea of equal conditions. I was no doubt insufficiently clear on this topic in my book, hence certain misunderstandings.

29. See Piketty, Capital, chaps. 8 and 14, especially pp. 508–12.

30. Spire, Alexis, “Capital, Social Reproduction, and the Rise of Inequality,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 57–64 .

31. Grenier, Jean-Yves, “The Dynamics of Capitalism and Inequality,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 7–20 .

32. Delalande, Nicolas, “Toward a Political History of Capital?Annales HSS (Englis Edition) 70, no. 1 (2015): 45–56 .

33. Spire, “Capital, Social Reproduction,” 63.

34. Piketty, Capital, 558–62.

35. On this topic, see Cagé, Julia, Sauver les médias. Capitalisme, financement participatif et démocratie (Paris: Éd. du Seuil, 2015).

36. Piketty, Capital, 570.

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Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales - English Edition
  • ISSN: 2398-5682
  • EISSN: 2268-3763
  • URL: /core/journals/annales-histoire-sciences-sociales-english-edition
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