The Contradictions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century

The Piketty Opportunity

Edited by Pat Hudson, Keith Tribe

£70.00  |  $95.00
ISBN 9781911116103
£25.00  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781911116110
£25.00  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781911116127
312 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  30 October 2016


"This excellent volume effectively exploits and builds on ‘the Piketty opportunity’: the contested new terrain created by Thomas Piketty’s challenge to mainstream economics and economic history. With their deep knowledge of the history of the study of inequality in various regions of the world and in the discipline of economics, the contributors engage critically with Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century to provide a plethora of new insights and important alternative policy proposals. This volume demonstrates why public policy-makers need to pay full attention to historians in grappling with the political trilemma of our age posed by Piketty: democracy, capitalism and inequality." – Simon Szreter, University of Cambridge

"This splendid book validates Thomas Piketty's Capital precisely through its lucid, comprehensive and in places devastating critique of his capital theory and empirical methods, with rich detail on France, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the US, as well as Japan, Africa and India. As companion reading or on its own, Contradictions is a landmark, a model of scholarly engagement at the highest level." – James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations, University of Texas at Austin

“Drawing in a critical and reasoned manner on the work of Thomas Piketty, this clear and rigorous book assembles leading specialists in the field to propose a global analysis of inequality. In remarkably illuminating fashion, it evokes the tragedy of inequalities in the dynamic of capitalist systems in the long term and places into stark relief the urgency for well informed action.” – Philippe Minard, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

"Hudson and Tribe have, with their selection of authors, and their outstanding contributions, substantively re-launched the enquiry into inequalities. The essays have provided further opportunities to explore the potential links between economic history and economics, theoretical and empirical; to ask questions in a different way, rethink concepts and the nature of information; to go beyond what each discipline on its own can give, to tell another story. Their book could be a landmark collection." – Prue Kerr, Contributions to Political Economy

“a welcome contribution . . . The chapters produced by Patrick Manning, Matt Drwenski, Tetsuji Okazaki and Prasannan Parthasarathi are particularly valuable as they consider regions often ignored and about which little is known. Each on their own present relevant empirical contributions linking certain key regions to what we can refer to as the ‘Piketty narrative.’ For these chapters alone, the book should be considered a valuable addition to one’s library.” – Vincent Geloso, EH.Net

"It offers rich and variegated comment on Capital in the Twenty-First Century that is sometimes critical, sometimes complementary, and is surely valuable for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the many historical processes, settings, and incidences that Piketty has interwoven in his long history of rising inequality." – Peter Lindner, Economic Geography

"The main sections of the book aim to particularise the analysis of inequality by looking at the trends, institutions and politics of different countries – one section on western economies, one on major economies elsewhere. As Luis Bértola points out here, Piketty is very Eurocentric. Having these different national perspectives is a useful contribution to what is turning out to be quite an extensive new literature on inequality." – Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist


This volume of essays builds upon renewed interest in the long-run global development of wealth and inequality stimulated by the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It brings together an international team of leading economic historians and economists to provide an overview of global developments in the theory and reality of inequality and its salience in the modern world order.

The contributors take stock of the key concepts involved in contemporary debates – capital, wealth and income distribution, economic development, private and collective assets, financialization, global liberalisation – and evaluate the evidence for both common and contrasting historical trends in national statistical data sources. To the developed economies upon which Piketty drew are added contributions covering Latin America, Africa, India and Japan, providing a global perspective upon a global phenomenon.

The book seeks to provide readers with a deeper awareness and understanding of the significance of inequality in economic development, the varying pace and nature of economic change around the world, and the manner in which this process of change affects the distribution of incomes and wealth in diverse economies. The collection marks an important step in the process of developing Piketty’s analytical framework and empirical material, overcoming some of their limitations and helping to cement a lasting place for inequality in the future agenda of economics and economic history.


1. Introduction
Pat Hudson and Keith Tribe

Part I: Concepts and Models
2. Capital and Wealth
G. C. Harcourt, University of New South Wales and Keith Tribe

3. Inequality
Keith Tribe

4. Models, Money and Housing
Avner Offer, University of Oxford

Part II: Piketty in Western National Contexts
5. French Idiosyncracies
Gauthier Lanot, Umeå University

6. Fact or Fiction? Complexities of Economic Inequality in Twentieth-Century Germany
Jan-Otmar Hesse, University of Bayreuth

7. Collective Wealth Formation: Conflict and Compromise in Sweden, 1950-2000
Ylva Hasselberg and Henry Ohlsson, Uppsala University

8. A Confusion of Capital in the United States
Mary A. O'Sullivan, University of Geneva

9. Distributional Politics: The Search for Equality in Britain since the First World War
Jim Tomlinson, University of Glasgow

Part III: Piketty: Global Commentaries
10. Looking at Piketty from the Periphery
Luis Bértola, Universidad de la República, Uruguay

11. The Differences of Inequality in Africa
Patrick Manning and Matt Drwenski, University of Pittsburgh

12. Income Distribution in Pre-War Japan
Tetsuji Okazaki, University of Tokyo

13. Piketty and India
Prasannan Parthasarathi, Boston College

Part IV: Prospect
14. Goals and Measures of Development: The Piketty Opportunity
Pat Hudson

15. Wealth and Income Distribution: New Theories for a New Era
Ravi Kanbur,Cornell University and Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University

Author Information

Pat Hudson is Emeritus Professor of Economic History at Cardiff University. Her books include The Industrial Revolution (1992) and History by Numbers: An Introduction to Quantitative Approaches (second edition 2016). Recently, she coedited (with Francesco Boldizzoni) The Routledge Handbook of Global Economic History (2016).

Keith Tribe taught economics at Keele University in the 1980s and 1990s before taking early retirement in 2002. Since then he has continued to write, translate and teach. He is currently teaching the history of economics at the University of Birmingham. His books include Governing Economy (1988), Strategies of Economic Order (1995/2007) and The Economy of the Word (2015).

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Watch the video

Pat Hudson and Keith Tribe, together with contributor Avner Offer, discuss the book at the International Inequalities Institute, LSE.