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Vera Maltseva , Alexander Maltsev

Dismal Science is Back? Review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century

2018. Vol. 13. No. 1. P. 204–219 [issue contents]

This article reviews the key strengths and debatable issues in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. The authors fully agree with the view that Capitalis the most significant book in economics published since the start of the 21st century but consider that this appreciation is based more on its persuasive style of argumentation than on the introduction of new ideas. The article notes that Piketty’s central thesis about inequality is based on a huge research database in terms of global coverage and retrospective. The database was compiled through years of work with tax statistics archives, a method of gathering data that is not typical for mainstream economists. Another notable feature of Capitalis the text itself — it is not overloaded with formulas, which makes Piketty’s arguments even more persuasive. The authors point out that Piketty revives the political economy tradition of socio-economic analysis in a broad context and successfully combines it with modern methods of data analysis.
The authors also point out the debatable ideas in Capital, particularly Piketti’s aspiration to find universal principles of economic development. As a result, modern capitalism looks like the economy of the 19th century.  This leads to an underestimation of the role of human capital and innovations in economic development and an excessively pessimistic forecast of the world’s economic development. The authors consider doubtful Piketty’s recommendations for counteraction to spiral of increasing inequality.  The authors suggest that proposed measures could go against technological and institutional development when new technologies and “good” institutions enjoy a huge potential egalitarian effect. 

Citation: Maltsev A.,  Maltseva V. (2018) Dismal Science is Back? Review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 13, no 1 (in Russian). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2018-01-12.
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