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Capital in the Twenty First Century

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What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality―the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth―today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.

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About the Author:

Thomas Piketty is Director of Studies at L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and Professor at the Paris School of Economics. He is the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

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French economist Thomas Piketty is best known as an economic historian for his use of tax archives, census data, and other historical documents to analyze the distribution of income and wealth over time. At 696 pages, Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is his magnum opus, comprising his years of analysis of wealth and income history in the developed world. Piketty's exhaustive list of tables and graphs, which number more than 100, cover topics from the esoteric, such as the composition of Parisian portfolios (1872-1912); to inheritance transfers in Europe; to rates of return vs. growth (years 0-2100), and much, much more.

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