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The politics of Piketty: what political science can learn from, and contribute to, the debate on Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Hopkin, Jonathan (2014) The politics of Piketty: what political science can learn from, and contribute to, the debate on Capital in the Twenty-First Century. British Journal of Sociology, 65 (4). pp. 678-695. ISSN 0007-1315

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1468-4446.12110

Abstract

Thomas Piketty's imposing volume has brought serious economics firmly into the mainstream of public debate on inequality, yet political science has been mostly absent from this debate. This article argues that political science has an essential contribution to make to this debate, and that Piketty's important and powerful book lacks a clear political theory. It develops this argument by first assessing and critiquing the changing nature of political science and its account of contemporary capitalism, and then suggesting how Piketty's thesis can be complemented, extended and challenged by focusing on the ways in which politics and collective action shape the economy and the distribution of income and wealth. Although Capital's principal message is that ‘capital is back’ and that without political interventions active political interventions will continue to grow, a political economy perspective would suggest another rather more fundamental critique: the very economic forces Piketty describes are embedded in institutional arrangements which can only be properly understood as political phenomena. In a sense capital itself – the central concept of the book – is almost meaningless without proper consideration of its political foundations. Even if the fact of capital accumulation may respond to an economic logic, the process is embedded in a very political logic. The examples of housing policy and the regulation, and failure to regulate, financial markets are used to illustrate these points.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(IS...
Additional Information: ©2014 London School of Economics and Political Science
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 19 May 2015 12:08
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2019 11:03
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/62006

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