Saturday, April 19, 2014

Comments on Tim Shenk review of Piketty by Richard Drayton

It seems Doug Henwood does not like the Tim Shenk review of Piketty. Commenters bring in all sorts of jibes from status to ABD on his timeline. May be an indication why people on the left find it difficult to join forces; there is no unifying aim like making profits. Richard Drayton comments " He is a serious, if a young, public intellectual. We live in strange times if a 30 year old can't intervene in debates." 
Richard Drayton further comments on the review "I don't think that's quite fair Doug. Here's what the article is doing:
(1) explaining to readers the fact, which is far from intuitive for most people, that the idea of capitalism was first crystallized by its critics, in particular socialists,
(2) offering that the paradox of the 1989 moment was that - "nothing did more to entrench the acceptance of capitalism than the demise of the movement that had invented the concept",
(3) explaining the 2008 return to the centre of critiques of capitalism, The Occupy scene and its intellectual cross currents (Jacobin and N+1 etc),
(4) locating the significance of Piketty's Capital (and P. and Saez's earlier identification of the 1%), explaining how it brings together Kuznets and national accounting econometrics with political economy to provide a new longue duree model of inequality
(5) discusses the limits of P's vision of the past and the future
(6) ending with a rather valuable expression of hope (god knows we need episodes of optimism) that P. may become used by others who will make a 21st century post-capitalist social thought."

Tim Shenk responds "Richard, thank you for that summary. I would just add that I'm also trying to explain the longer intellectual history behind Piketty's political economy, hence all that talk about all the non-Marxist (but still socialist) attempts to transcend capitalism." From The Economist Book Club
"As we have discussed several times, a key part of Mr Piketty's story is that the rate of return on capital, r, is greater than the rate of economic growth, g. Critics have suggested that this is at odds with economic theory, but Mr Piketty is not making a theoretical point; he is observing that, empirically, r has been greater than g throughout most of history. If the theory is inconsistent with that, then that is the theory's problem." and also comments on Martin Wolf review which questions whether inequality matters.

1 comment:

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