On the New Republic podcast How to Save a Country, listen to Thomas Piketty explain why addressing global inequality must mean radical changes in economic policy—and what, in the 2020s and beyond, the Global North owes the Global South:
“A profound and optimistic call to action and reflection. For Piketty, the arc of history is long, but it does bend toward equality. There is nothing automatic about it, however: as citizens, we must be ready to fight for it, and constantly (re)invent the myriad of institutions that will bring it about. This book is here to help.”—Esther Duflo
“A sustained argument for why we should be optimistic about human progress…[Piketty] has laid out a plan that is smart, thoughtful, and motivated by admirable political convictions.”—Gary Gerstle, Washington Post
“Thomas Piketty helped put inequality at the center of political debate. Now, he offers an ambitious program for addressing it…This is political economy on a grand scale, a starting point for debate about the future of progressive politics.”—Michael J. Sandel, author of The Tyranny of Merit
“[Piketty] argues that we’re on a trajectory of greater, not less, equality and lays out his prescriptions for remedying our current corrosive wealth disparities.”—David Marchese, New York Times Magazine
The world’s leading economist of inequality presents a short but sweeping and surprisingly optimistic history of human progress toward equality despite crises, disasters, and backsliding. A perfect introduction to the ideas developed in his monumental earlier books.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about inequality. We know it has increased dramatically in many parts of the world over the past two generations. No one has done more to reveal the problem than Thomas Piketty. Now, in this surprising and powerful new work, Piketty reminds us that the grand sweep of history gives us reasons to be optimistic. Over the centuries, he shows, we have been moving toward greater equality.
Piketty guides us with elegance and concision through the great movements that have made the modern world for better and worse: the growth of capitalism, revolutions, imperialism, slavery, wars, and the building of the welfare state. It’s a history of violence and social struggle, punctuated by regression and disaster. But through it all, Piketty shows, human societies have moved fitfully toward a more just distribution of income and assets, a reduction of racial and gender inequalities, and greater access to health care, education, and the rights of citizenship. Our rough march forward is political and ideological, an endless fight against injustice. To keep moving, Piketty argues, we need to learn and commit to what works, to institutional, legal, social, fiscal, and educational systems that can make equality a lasting reality. At the same time, we need to resist historical amnesia and the temptations of cultural separatism and intellectual compartmentalization. At stake is the quality of life for billions of people. We know we can do better, Piketty concludes. The past shows us how. The future is up to us.
In May 2020 a full-length documentary film based on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century opened via virtual screenings at independent theaters across the United States. Watch the Trailer »