Capital in the Twenty-First Century

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PIKETTY17HRMax Weber Lecture


Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics

Wednesday 21 January 2015, 11:00-13:00

Badia Fiesolana, Refettorio

The Max Weber Lectures open in 2015 with an outstanding guest speaker. Thomas Piketty is an internationally renowned French economist and Director of the Paris School of Economics. His most recent book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has captured the headlines of the popular and specialised press bringing the debate about wealth and income inequality under the spot lights.

This lecture draws on Thomas Piketty’s book.  The Author asks the question: 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.

Based on a unique collection of data Picketty 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 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 and may do so again.

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