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.
... neatly summarizes the findings of his two original volumes in a 'mere' 250 pages of text. Readers will find this work attractive for its brevity alone. But A Brief History of Equality is also a very different kind of book from the first two ... An engaged and clearheaded socialist thinker, Piketty sets forth in A Brief History of Equality one of the most comprehensive and comprehensible social democratic programs available anywhere ... Piketty understands that none of his proposals will be easy to implement. But his reading of politics in the 20th-century West gives him reason to hope ... Hence a key question for Piketty’s 2022 book: Can reducing inequality in the 21st-century world on the same scale as in the 20th-century West be accomplished without another large war, or a pandemic far more destructive than the one we are living through, or a climate catastrophe of the first order? One certainly wants to answer with Piketty that it can. He has laid out a plan that is smart, thoughtful and motivated by admirable political convictions. But a plan of this sort, as Piketty himself showed in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, may not suffice, even when backed by a phalanx of progressive movements. Vast and cruel destruction of life and property, Piketty once wrote, was the critical prelude to the 20th century’s social democratic triumph. Let us hope the world will not require similar death and despair to thrust into existence a 21st-century era of economic and social reconstruction.
[Piketty] possesses the rarest of abilities to analyse staggering quantities of information and offer original insights into the structures that underpin our economies. Celebrity is not at the expense of scholarship. His works are testament to the belief that arguments are won through the weight of evidence and the power of reason ... If this volume offers familiar Piketty arguments, then the weaknesses are also familiar. An increase in global trade and integration also played a critical role in reducing inequality. This receives little acknowledgement in this and previous book ... Current levels of political integration, global and European, are excoriated. But the author gives no recognition to the immense development of the regulatory powers of the Commission of the European Union in areas from climate policy to the regulation of data ... But, at a time when the concept of objective truth is under assault and when the nuance of argument can be drowned out by the shouting of slogans, there is something glorious about the scale of the work of Thomas Piketty. His arguments are vast in their detail, ever ambitious and always hopeful ... This elegant and (by his standards) short book will allow any reader to understand the glory.