Capital in the Twenty-First Century

«Piketty has looked at centuries of tax archives to formulate a theory of capitalism that is evidence-based and rigorously researched, but also attempts to answer the most basic questions in economic theory…Capital in the Twenty-First Century is already being hailed as a seminal work of economic thought, and with very good reason.»

Thomas Flynn, Daily Beast

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. Les mer

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What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality--the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth--today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.


The Belknap Press
24 x 16 cm
Winner of PROSE Awards 2015. Nominated for FAF Translation Prize 2015 and Robert Jervis and Paul Schroeder Best Book Award 2015 and Sidney Hillman Prize for Book Journalism 2015 and Joseph J. Spengler Best Book Prize 2016.

Om forfatteren

Thomas Piketty is Professor of Economics and Economic History at L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and at the Paris School of Economics and Codirector of the World Inequality Lab.


«Piketty has looked at centuries of tax archives to formulate a theory of capitalism that is evidence-based and rigorously researched, but also attempts to answer the most basic questions in economic theory…Capital in the Twenty-First Century is already being hailed as a seminal work of economic thought, and with very good reason.»

Thomas Flynn, Daily Beast

«Piketty solidifies and gives an intellectual edge to the view that something is wrong here, and something new and bold and radical has got to be done…People like me, and others, are certainly excited by the prospect of where Piketty might take us.»

Len McCluskey, The Guardian

«It’s going to be remembered as the economic tome of our era. Basically, Piketty has finally put to death, with data, the fallacies of trickle down economics…We can only hope that the politicians crafting today’s economic programs will take this book to heart.»

Rana Foroohar, Time

«Piketty is offering something fresh in the discourse: an unimaginably massive data-set that traces the ebb and flow of wealth and productivity around the globe for three centuries…It’s a rare thing to see economists, especially pro-capitalist economists, praising taxation itself, but Piketty—careful, unemotional Piketty—dares…Besides, he says, the thing every red-blooded entrepreneur wants to see is people getting rich by their wits and deeds, not by the birthright of kings.»

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

«Using sophisticated computer modeling and analyses, the professor from the Paris School of Economics debunks a long-held assumption—that income from wages will tend to grow at roughly the same rate as wealth—and instead makes a compelling case that, over time, the apparatus of capitalism grows wealth faster than wages. Result: Inequality between the wealthy and everyone else will widen faster and faster; and, without progressive taxation, his data show we’ll return to levels of inequality not seen since America’s Gilded Age.»

Dean Paton, YES!

«The depth and range of evidence Piketty marshals allows him to deliver a devastating blow to the confidence of many economists that capitalism is a tide that gradually lifts all boats. In the process, he mounts an effective critique of the tendency of economic writers on both left and right to rely on theories and formal systems…His book challenges both mainstream economists’ faith in untested mathematical models, as well as radicals’ resistance to subjecting Marx’s economic theory to rigorous testing.»

Michael W. Clune, Chronicle of Higher Education

«Seven hundred pages on the evolution of inequality in economically advanced societies by the most fashionable new theorist to emerge for a long time. Many have been waiting for such a comprehensive critique of capitalism.»

David Sexton, Evening Standard

«In this monumental, vitally important work, [Piketty] forces us to reconsider what we think we know about the baseline functioning of capitalist economies over the long haul, and to grapple with the implications for ourselves and our times…Nearly every page of the book rewards a careful reading with new insights and intriguing questions.»

Matthew Carnes, America

«We are in danger of entering into an era that, like the 19th century in France and England, is socially and politically dominated by those with vast amounts of inherited wealth…Piketty’s book is important because of the way he has clarified the magnitude of the problem and its dangers. And he has done so at a time of increasing soul-searching about the role technology plays in exacerbating inequality.»

David Rotman, Technology Review

«Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an intellectual tour de force, a triumph of economic history over the theoretical, mathematical modeling that has come to dominate the economics profession in recent years.»

Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post

«Piketty has written an extraordinarily important book…In its scale and sweep it brings us back to the founders of political economy.»

Martin Wolf, Financial Times

«A sweeping account of rising inequality…Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore.»

John Cassidy, New Yorker

«Stands a fair chance of becoming the most influential work of economics yet published in our young century. It is the most important study of inequality in over fifty years.»

Timothy Shenk, The Nation

«At a time when the concentration of wealth and income in the hands of a few has resurfaced as a central political issue, Piketty doesn’t just offer invaluable documentation of what is happening, with unmatched historical depth. He also offers what amounts to a unified field theory of inequality, one that integrates economic growth, the distribution of income between capital and labor, and the distribution of wealth and income among individuals into a single frame…Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to.»

Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books

«Magisterial…This book is economics at its best.»

Philip Roscoe, Times Higher Education

«[A] seminal work on capitalism.»

Madan Sabnavis, Financial Express

«This past July, I felt compelled to read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century after reading several reviews and hearing about it from friends. I’m glad I did. I encourage you to read it too…I agree with his most important conclusions, and I hope his work will draw more smart people into the study of wealth and income inequality.»

Bill Gates, Gates Notes

«[Piketty’s] overarching theme—that increased income disparity as a threat to democratic capitalism—remains prominent…His concerns about social unrest cannot be ignored.»

James Halteman, Christian Century

«Anyone remotely interested in economics needs to read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Matthew Yglesias, Slate

«About as close to a blockbuster as there is in the world of economic literature—easily the most discussed book of its genre in years…Piketty challenges one of the underpinnings of modern democracies—namely, that growth and productivity make each generation better off than the previous one.»

Barrie McKenna, Globe and Mail

«The strength of [Piketty's] thesis is that it is founded on evidence rather than ideology…What Piketty has done is provide a strong factual understanding for how modern capitalist economies diverge from the image of risk-taking and productive commercial activity. At the very least, the book effectively debunks the notion that there is an economic imperative for low tax rates and a smaller state.»

Oliver Kamm, The Times

«Defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism…Without what [Piketty] acknowledges is a politically unrealistic global wealth tax, he sees the United States and the developed world on a path toward a degree of inequality that will reach levels likely to cause severe social disruption.»

Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times

«Piketty's magnum opus…A lucid tale of why inequality in the world is increasing, and what we should be doing about it. The right leaning crowd may be dismayed with his prescriptions of stiff global wealth taxes, but neither leftists nor rightists can dispute the data that he presents.»

Ajit Ranade, Business Today

«Piketty’s ground-breaking work on the historical evolution of income distribution is impressive…One of the best economic books in decades.»

Paul Sweeney, Irish Times

«The most remarkable work of economics in recent years, if not decades…The discipline of economics, Piketty argues, remains trapped in a juvenile passion for mathematics, divorced from history and its sister social sciences. His work aims to change that.»

Nick Pearce, New Statesman

«Magnificent…Even though it is a work more concerned with the past 200 years, it’s no coincidence that the full title of Piketty’s book is Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Its ambition is to shape debates about the next two centuries, not the past two. And in that it may succeed.»

Christopher Croke, The Australian

«A monumental book that will influence economic analysis (and perhaps policymaking) in the years to come. In the way it is written and the importance of the questions it asks, it is a book the classic authors of economics could have written if they lived today and had access to the vast empirical material Piketty and his colleagues collected.»

Branko Milanovic, American Prospect

«This book has all the makings of a classic. It has already changed the way economists think about inequality. One hopes that these ideas will percolate into the chambers of policy-makers in governments and lending institutions and bring about changes in their policies to reduce inequality.»

K. Subramanian, The Hindu

«There is a huge amount to admire and welcome in this book…Like the radicals of the 1790s, who toasted Edmund Burke in gratitude for the fundamental debate his writings on the French Revolution had provoked, even those who find Piketty’s remedies unpalatable and in some ways worse than the disease he is trying to cure should nevertheless applaud his industry, his acuity, and his humane commitment to the ideal of rational, temperate and informed public debate.»

David Womersley, Standpoint

«Piketty’s book is revolutionary…[His] multi-century portrait of wealth and income obliterates economists’ complacent narratives…We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn’t it.»

Jedediah Purdy, Los Angeles Review of Books

«Piketty demonstrates in terrifying detail, with painstaking statistical research, that free-market capitalism, in the absence of major state redistribution, produces profound economic inequalities.»

Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

«Piketty’s treatment of inequality is perfectly matched to its moment. Like [Paul] Kennedy a generation ago, Piketty has emerged as a rock star of the policy-intellectual world…But make no mistake, his work richly deserves all the attention it is receiving…By focusing attention on what has happened to a fortunate few among us, and by opening up for debate issues around the long-run functioning of our market system, Capital in the Twenty-First Century has made a profoundly important contribution.»

Lawrence H. Summers, Democracy

«Clearly written, ambitious in scope, rooted in economics but drawing on insights from related fields like history and sociology, Piketty’s Capital resembles nothing so much as an old-fashioned work of political economy by the likes of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, or John Maynard Keynes…The book’s major strength lies in Piketty’s ability to see the big picture. His original and rigorously well-documented insights into the deep structures of capitalism show us how the dynamics of capital accumulation have played out historically over the past three centuries, and how they’re likely to develop in the century to come.»

Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly

«Capital in the Twenty-First Century is arguably the most important popular economics book in recent memory. It will take its place among other classics in the field that have survived changing theoretical and political fashions, such as its namesake by Karl Marx (Das Kapital, 1867) or other ambitiously titled books such as John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936). Anyone who wants to engage in an informed discussion about the economic landscape will have to read Piketty.»

Kate Bahn, Women’s Review of Books

«Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century laid bare the deep structural forces that have made our brave new neoliberal economic order so dangerously topheavy and unstable.»

Chris Lehmann, In These Times

«The extraordinary resonance of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century suggests that inequality has become the most pressing economic issue of our time.»

Michael Rosen, Times Literary Supplement

«[Piketty’s] magnum opus, which kicked off years of debate over the causes of and potential solutions for deep poverty in wealthy societies.»

Martin Wolk, Los Angeles Times

«Drawing on hundreds of years of economic data (some of which has only recently become available to researchers) Piketty reaches a simple but disturbing conclusion: In the long run, the return on capital tends to be greater than the growth rate of the economies in which that capital is located…Readers can already guess the dire conclusion that flows from combining Piketty’s theory with the plausible assumption that unregulated wealth leads to plutocracy: If the only way to avoid plutocracy would be to employ political processes that the plutocrats themselves will eventually buy lock, stock and barrel, then the only way to avoid being ruled by the Lords of Capital is to become one of them.»

Paul Campos, Salon

«Painstakingly details the dynamics of wealth and income inequality throughout the last two centuries, and offers a somewhat grim picture of the future of economic inequality. Along the way, Piketty also offers his theory of the cause of exploding executive pay and how we can successfully combat this destructive trend.»

Matt Bruenig, The Week

«[Piketty] is just about to emerge as the most important thinker of his generation…He demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better. From the banking crisis of 2008 to the Occupy movement of 2011, this much has been intuited by ordinary people. The singular significance of his book is that it proves ‘scientifically’ that this intuition is correct. This is why his book has crossed over into the mainstream—it says what many people have already been thinking.»

Andrew Hussey, The Observer

«The strength of Piketty’s book is his close attention to the different sources of inequality, the massive documentation underpinning his history and conclusions, and his impressive culls from sociology and literature, which exhibit the richness of ‘political economy’ compared to its thin mathematical successor that has attained such prominence…A timely intervention in the current debate about inequality and its causes.»

Robert Skidelsky, Prospect

«The book aims to revolutionize the way people think about the economic history of the past two centuries. It may well manage the feat.»

The Economist

«Rarely does a book come along…that completely alters the paradigm through which we frame our worldview. Thomas Piketty’s magisterial study of the structure of capitalism since the 18th century, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is such a book…This book is more than a must read. It is a manual for action that provides a fresh framework for the new politics of the 21st century.»

Nathan Gardels, The WorldPost

«[An] enormously important book.»

Doug Henwood, Bookforum

«Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.»

Kirkus Reviews

«An explosive argument.»


«A seminal book on the economic and social evolution of the planet… A masterpiece.»

Emmanuel Todd, Marianne

«Outstanding… A political and theoretical bulldozer.»


«The book of the season.»


«In this magisterial work, Thomas Piketty has performed a great service to the academy and to the public. He has written a pioneering book that is at once thoughtful, measured, and provocative. The force of his case rests not on a diatribe or a political agenda, but on carefully collected and analyzed data and reasoned thought.»

Rakesh Khurana, Harvard Business School

«[A] sweeping study of wealth in the modern world…Full of insights but free of dogma, this is a seminal examination of how entrenched wealth and intractable inequality continue to shape the economy.»

Publishers Weekly

«The best business book on economics of the year.»

Daniel Gross, strategy+business

«The year’s most popular and controversial book.»

Roland White, Sunday Times

«Marx believed that free markets produce inequality, social division and violence. Piketty appears to side with Marx, but this is deceptive. When Piketty talks about ‘capital,’ he means the kind of investments held by today’s leisured rentier class whose money is tied up in property and pensions. Piketty argues that a free market overloaded with this kind of capital may or may not lead to anger and alienation, but it will certainly act like lumpy blockages in the smooth running of the economy. Piketty only wants the economy to work better.»

Nicholas Blincoe, The Telegraph

«Piketty presents the problem of inequality afresh, using new forms of historical narration and explanation that cut across disciplines and theoretical frameworks.»

William Davies, London Review of Books

«Capital in the Twenty-First Century looks back in order to look forward, plumbing economic patterns from the 18th century onward and homing in on the staggering inequities that dominate our age.»

Hamilton Cain, The Atlantic

«This book is not only the definitive account of the historical evolution of inequality in advanced economies, it is also a magisterial treatise on capitalism’s inherent dynamics. Piketty ends his book with a ringing call for the global taxation of capital. Whether or not you agree with him on the solution, this book presents a stark challenge for those who would like to save capitalism from itself.»

Dani Rodrik, Institute for Advanced Study

«This is a truly path-breaking book offering a hard-hitting and well-founded critique of capitalism in the twenty-first century…Piketty shows himself to be not only a supereconomist but also a skilled politician. No wonder his thoughts have resonated even at the highest political levels. One can only hope that his work will actually influence adoption of his policy recommendations.»

Christel Lane, LSE Review of Books

«As befits a book of such size, Capital is broad-ranging, both historically and geographically…Impressive.»

William Keegan, The Tablet

«Capital reflects decades of work in collecting national income data across centuries, countries, and class, done in partnership with academics across the globe. But beyond its remarkably rich and instructive history, the book’s deep and novel understanding of inequality in the economy has drawn well-deserved attention…The book is an attempt to ground the debate over inequality in strong empirical data, put the question of distribution back into economics, and open the debate not just to the entirety of the social sciences but to people themselves.»

Mike Konczal, Boston Review

«Piketty’s genius lies in proving that inequality is growing and potentially threatens widespread political instability…Piketty has written a trenchant critique of our current economic system.»

Michael Washburn, Boston Globe

«How does a rigorous, seven-hundred page economic history become a lionized hit? Through the canny voice of professor Thomas Piketty, and his demystification of inherited wealth, Karl Marx’s true legacy, and what we mean when we talk about monetary ‘growth’ and ‘inequality.’»

Barnes and Noble Review

«Piketty says he wants the book to be widely read and his ideas debated. He has succeeded. Questions of economic theory have now reached an uncommonly large audience. One could, of course, fill a book twice the size with the reviews and the commentary Capital has prompted. But there is a better way into the debate than consuming the Piketty media phenomenon: spend a little valuable capital and read the original yourself.»

Ben Chu, The Independent

«[Piketty] has written a 700 page book on inequality which has achieved something few would have thought possible. He has rocked the neo-liberal economic establishment to its foundations…Even some of the most ideologically blinkered of free market economists, having read this book, now openly admit that Professor Piketty has laid down a challenge which they dare not ignore and which could change the political environment.»

John Palmer, Red Pepper

«Piketty has made his name central to serious discussions of inequality…[He] expands upon his empirical work of the last 10 years, while also setting forth a political theory of inequality. This last element of the book gives special attention to tax policy and makes some provocative suggestions—new and higher taxes on the very rich.»

Joseph Thorndike, Forbes

«When it comes to economics…you need to get yourself a hold of Capital in the Twenty-First Century…Piketty’s study will have readers plotting capital’s downfall because what it shows is that the growing inequalities we are seeing between the haves and have nots are endemic to the system…We are entering a new age of capital, he argues; a time, similar to the early 19th century, when many will live off their money. Without the need for work. Meanwhile, those without capital will always struggle to keep ahead of debts.»

Thomas Quinn, Big Issue

«Intellectually hefty…Piketty has already engendered vigorous argument. Capital is an arduous climb, but the subject is equally weighty, and it demands our best analyses, proposals and dialogues. Capital is an essential volume in the conversation.»

Earl Pike, Cleveland Plain Dealer

«An important book…which paints a compelling, and scary, picture of the deep forces driving toward ever greater inequality in the modern world. Piketty’s historical focus adds power to his analysis of the trend toward greater financial inequality today.»

Charles R. Morris, Commonweal

«This important and fascinating book surely ranks among the most influential economic analysis of recent decades.»

Andrew Berg, Finance & Development

«This book is the key to understanding how the automatic accumulation and concentration of wealth poses a threat to the peaceful economies in which entrepreneurs prosper.»

Geoffrey James, Inc.

«Piketty’s great achievement, and one possible reason for the enthusiastic reception of his book, is his effective empirical demonstration of a fact long denied by neoclassical economics and its champions throughout the world: markets, when left to their own devices, do not provide individuals with rewards that are proportional to their efforts…[This book] effectively demolishes mainstream myths about the ability of markets to combat inequality.»

Hassan Javid, Dawn

«[Piketty’s] chief intellectual accomplishment is to show how the basic forces of capitalism tend inevitably toward an ever-greater accumulation of wealth at the tip of the pyramid…Piketty shows that the economics of the postwar era—when the West enjoyed strong, widely-shared growth—was a historical exception. For our Western democracies, it was also a political necessity. Capitalism is facing an existential challenge; smart plutocrats will be part of the solution.»

Chrystia Freeland, Politico

«The book is a terrific achievement.»

Alan Ryan, Literary Review

«One of the strengths of Piketty’s book is the depth and rigor of his historical analysis. Yet it is changes taking place now that make his concerns especially urgent.»

Andrew Neather, London Evening Standard

«Piketty draws on a vast store of historical data to argue that the broad dissemination of wealth that occurred during the decades following World War I was not, as economists then mistakenly believed, a natural state of capitalist equilibrium, but rather a halcyon interval between Belle Époque inequality and the rising inequality of our own era…[His] most provocative argument is that the discrepancy between the high returns to capital and much more modest overall economic growth—briefly annulled during the mid-century—ensures that the gulf between the rich (who profit from capital investments) and the middle class (who depend chiefly on income from labor) will only continue to grow.»

James Traub, Foreign Policy

«Magisterial…Piketty provides a sweeping, data-driven narrative about inequality trends in the United States and other Western economies over the past century or more, identifies a worrisome increase in income and wealth concentration in a small percentage of the population since 1980, and warns that this trend won’t likely correct itself.»

Chad Stone, U.S. News & World Report

«Piketty’s new book is an important contribution to understanding what we need to do to produce more growth, wider economic opportunity and greater social stability.»

David Cay Johnston, Al Jazeera America

«Piketty’s main point, and his new and powerful contribution to an old topic: as long as the rate of return exceeds the rate of growth, the income and wealth of the rich will grow faster than the typical income from work…If the ownership of wealth in fact becomes even more concentrated during the rest of the twenty-first century, the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy…Wouldn’t it be interesting if the United States were to become the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the last refuge of increasing inequality at the top (and perhaps also at the bottom)? Would that work for you?»

Robert Solow, New Republic

«Argues that the great equalizing decades following World War II, which brought on the rise of the middle class in the United States, were but a historical anomaly. Armed with centuries of data, Piketty says the rich are going to continue to gobble up a greater share of income, and our current system will do nothing to reverse that trend.»

Shaila Dewan, New York Times Magazine

«Groundbreaking…The usefulness of economics is determined by the quality of data at our disposal. Piketty’s new volume offers a fresh perspective and a wealth of newly compiled data that will go a long way in helping us understand how capitalism actually works.»

Christopher Matthews, Fortune

«There are books that you read and there are books that hit the nail on the head so hard that you want to get your teeth into them. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century…clearly belongs to the second category.»

Perry Lam, South China Morning Post

«Very readable and often slyly witty…Piketty does economics in a new way; or more accurately, he returns to an older way…He argues that the degree of inequality is not just the product of economic forces; it is also the product of politics.»

George Fallis, Literary Review of Canada

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