Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty
French economist and professor Thomas Piketty, who gained widespread notoriety with his first book Capital in the 21st Century, returns with his latest historical treatise on social inequality as seen through the lense of economic policy,
Capital and Ideology is not a finance handbook, nor is it a book that only financial analysts will understand. Rather, it is an extremely fascinating anthropological exploration on how economic ‘progression’ has historically played into the propagation of social inequalities. For Piketty, inequality is a direct result of how governments choose to act rather than being inherent. Social democracy continues to propel the ideology of private ownership at any expense, and Piketty sees this as an illness.
Post World War II societies, Piketty posits, moved towards either some form of social democracy or communism. Social democracies (think America) foster ‘ownership societies’, where the dominant ideology becomes one of worshipping private property. What you own defines you, what you own somehow becomes an arbiter of how good of a person you are, what you own becomes your purpose in life. The consumer mindset that drives American capitalism plays directly into maintaining and further deepening social inequalities across the globe.
But it’s all good right? As long as you can get that new shiny object you’re coveting, right? Wrong, and Piketty is here to prescribe strong medicine for what he thinks is a grave sickness. If inequality (or the inherency of inequality) is a choice, then we can choose (or elect good minds) to start changing social ideology for the benefit of all, not just the privileged few.
Review by Joel
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