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Thomas Piketty’s Historical-Institutional Study of Wealth and Income Inequality

  • O’Brien J
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Abstract

In his Capital and Ideology, Thomas Piketty (2019) deepens and broadens his historical and material analysis of the institutional sources of wealth and income inequality. Fueled by an expanded data base, he extends his position to cover the globe. In his earlier work, he disavowed Kuznets, demonstrating that under néoliberal capitalism, concentration of wealth continues at the top of the economic ladder, while indifferent to the suffering among those at the bottom. With his data he demonstrates that the problem of inequality is due only partly to capitalism as technical machine, and moreso to the way governments facilitate it in favor of their elites. This occurs thanks to an informal and unchallenged ideological consensus, that the wealthy have earned the right to their advantage, as have also–in negative terms, the poor. Without major restructuring, this is the inevitable yield under the ‘regimes of inequality’, which with minor variation today characterize all major nations around the world. As alternative, he proposes a participative-socialism, with modification concerning the nature of property, its distribution and ownership, supported by alterations in market regulation, economic rights, worker participation in enterprises, education, citizen engagement and environmental responsibility.

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O’Brien, J. E. (2020). Thomas Piketty’s Historical-Institutional Study of Wealth and Income Inequality. Critical Sociology, 46(7–8), 1311–1325. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920520937384

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