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Capital and Ideology
Capital and Ideology
By Thomas Piketty. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
1104 pp, Belknap Press, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the globe and exposes dysfunction in Western capitalist democracies, intellectuals are intoning in near unison: “Government is back. The Reagan-Thatcher revolution is dead. Capitalism as we know it is passé.” And particularly exposed is the once preeminent United States. It is paying a high price for having become, as the novelist Martin Amis once wrote, “land of the profit-making casualty ward, home of the taxi-metered ambulance.” 

Yet trendy as it is to skewer the profit motive, capitalism is not lacking for saviors, who come in different guises, hawking particular cures. Some want to adjust incomes after the market’s verdict (redistributors); others want to influence market outcomes (predistributors). There are those who want to raise minimum wages and change antimonopoly laws, or to reform corporate governance and socialize medicine. And then there is the French economist Thomas Piketty, who wants to overhaul capitalism beyond the point of recognition by abolishing permanent private property altogether. 

Capital and Ideology is an expansive sequel to Piketty’s best-selling Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Any author who is willing to follow up an 800-page book with an equally dense and significantly longer one must either be extremely self-confident or

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  • ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN is Visiting Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He previously served as Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India.
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