In the novel, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty really does achieve his goal to address one of today’s most controversial topics: a globally unequal economy due to inequality in the distribution of income and wealth which has existed for centuries. Of course, a couple of words cannot describe the entirety of Piketty’s novel; after all, it does consist of 700 pages of reading material. There are many other factors that Piketty touches base with, topics such as labor, taxes, technology, etc., which all played and continue to play a crucial role in how wealth and income are distributed today. Piketty has done a wonderful job bringing the public of the 21st century to its own attention of the economic inequality that exists today. Obviously, such an accomplishment goes out to the work that consists of over a decade worth of research. However, as one of the many readers of his novel, aside from the points with which I agree, I also found points to which I hold criticism and questions. Consequently, my interest as well as goal is to bring up and deliberate Piketty’s positions, specifically those that he stands by as the contributing factors to today’s economy being divided into the top ten percent and the bottom ninety. My deliberation falls into to two categories: subjective and objective. Subjective are those criticisms that are directed at Piketty’s style of writing and his strategic approach to the audience. Because my subjective arguments are not vast in amount and do not focus too much on Piketty’s research, I will discuss them first. Following that, saving the most important for last, I will dive into the objective criticisms which are based on the conclusions Piketty derives from his research.
First and for most, Piketty’s choice of title for his novel was not the most accurate decision. Even in a weekly issue for June of the Bloomberg Business Week, criticism points at the fact that Thomas Piketty’s novel “doesn’t speak to our current situation nearly as much as many buyers probably think.”1 In other words, if a potential reader is interested in buying Piketty’s novel based on its title, one might feel slightly deceived because Piketty focuses on the evolution and the history of the unequal distribution of wealth and income across the globe, dating back as far as the Industrial Revolution. Although such inequality has existed for centuries and millenniums, Piketty specifies that his analysis is based on anything dating from the revolution and on because it is around that time that signs of technological progression began to really show and society began to compile as well as store data and records. Consequently, as a reader, one can easily understand that Piketty mainly focuses on the history of inequality that led up to the 21st century rather than inequality during the correlated century. However, this is not to say that Piketty does not mention current issues at all; Piketty does do so, just not nearly enough as one would expect in a book bearing the title Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
Although to some readers such a factor may not be of much concern, Piketty relies mainly on data sources from the European countries, particularly Britain and France. Piketty does mention other countries such as the United States in certain analysis such as ones on the inequality of wealth in America (Piketty 347) and does depict countries other than European ones (e.g. Japan) on the graphs. However, for the majority of his novel, Piketty refers to Britain and France which can easily be taken note of by reading just a few pages. My only reason for this criticism is that I find some of his arguments, those in which only Europe is mentioned, to be one-sided. For example, throughout the sixth chapter of his novel, Piketty discusses the capital/income ratio as well as the split on a nation’s income between income from capital and that from labor (Piketty 199-234). The issue that I noticed is that, not