Thomas Piketty reminds us that rising inequality is not inevitable. Over the centuries, we have been moving toward greater equality. Piketty guides us through the great movements that have made the modern world and shows how we can learn from them to make equality a lasting reality.
It’s useful as an opportunity for readers to see Piketty bring his larger argument about the origins of inequality and his program for fighting it into high relief ... He’s right that wholesale change on the order he considers necessary is rare, and usually associated with calamity. Incremental adjustments, however, happen constantly. Absent disaster, it seems possible, or even likely, that they will move economic policy in the direction Piketty would want — away from the market-friendliness of the late 20th century — though to an extent that he would consider pathetically inadequate. That may be happening already. If it is, his work, with its determination to move outside what had been the terms of the debate, is partly responsible.
Stripped of its academic aura, A Brief History of Equality is pure Bernie Sanders or AOC...In truth, Mr. Piketty may even be to their left ... Behind Mr. Piketty’s analysis is a rigid righteousness that regards equality as a moral pinnacle and inequality as repugnant. He sees today’s socialists as the successors to the anti-colonialists, abolitionists and suffragists of the past. Capitalists, by contrast, are modern-day enslavers, heirs to a legacy of oppression. Mr. Piketty also dodges important questions.
That underlying pessimism is also present in this new book ... The book advocates for positive political change — though it does not map out any practicalities of how such positive change might be achieved ... [an] extraordinarily rose-tinted agenda ... The issue is that Piketty’s theory of change is motivated by ideology, so articulating a persuasive alternative ideology is enough. And surely a vision of a fair, green, participatory future is persuasive enough? Sadly, what convinces readers in the salon differs from what drives action on the streets, or even in the corridors of power, where Pessimistic Piketty is likely to prove more persuasive than this newly Optimistic Piketty.