Capital in the Twenty First Century: A Review Essay
Journal of Economic History, September 2014
10 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2014 Last revised: 16 May 2014
Date Written: April 24, 2014
The empirical work in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty First Century is simply breathtaking, but his use of the terms capital and marketable wealth interchangeably leads us to consider the implications of distinguishing between them, and calls our attention to important issues that deserve further exploration.
In the title of his 1968 review of early research in Cliometrics, Lance Davis opined that “it will never be literature.” One of Thomas Piketty’s many achievements in Capital in the Twenty First Century is to prove Davis wrong. Piketty’s book is both an exemplary work in quantitative economic history and economic literature in the finest sense, written with the Cartesian clarity we associate with the French scientific tradition. It is, moreover, quite remarkably, also about literature, in particular about the novels of Jane Austen, Henry James, and Honoré de Balzac, and the nineteenth century wealth dynamics they brought to life.
Keywords: Inequality, economic growth, wealth and income
JEL Classification: D31, D33, N1, N3, O11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation