How Thomas Piketty found a mass audience, and what it means for public policy

4 Jun 2014

Thomas Piketty’s phenomenally successful Capital confirms that Western countries are becoming less equal. He fits into a long-running debate about inequality, and there are some encouraging signs

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been easily the top-selling new economics book in years, rocketing to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and remaining there for week after week. It’s obvious, as reviewers like Dani Rodrik have pointed out, that a lengthy book on the distribution of income and wealth would not have sold in these quantities a decade or two ago. This is a book that suits the mood of the times.

Can the zeitgeist of an era be summed up by the books people choose to read (or at least to talk about as if they have read)? The contrast with the 1990s – when the big economics books were Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man and Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree – suggests that in some ways it can…

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Photo: Sue Gardner/ Wikimedia Commons

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