Capital in the Twenty-First Century is based on the author’s choices concerning the definition of capital, the inequalities of its distribution, and the social state policies he recommends to address them. In line with Thomas Piketty’s proposal to encourage a dialogue between economics and the other social sciences, this article sheds light on the implications of those choices. It traces the political genealogy of “human” and “intellectual” capital, and the subsequent development of other capital-variables used to measure different types of inequality and to evaluate the policies designed to cope with them. Differentiating the modes—which are not exclusively market-orientated—of investing in and valorizing these various types of capital, it clarifies the kind of power associated with each, its claim to legitimacy despite the inequalities it causes, and the domination it exercises. This calls into question the delimitation that Piketty has chosen for a basic set of capital-goods that are used in very different ways, along with his understanding and evaluation of them according to market valuation alone.
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