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Capital and Ideology

By: Thomas Piketty,Arthur Goldhammer - translator
Narrated by: Rick Adamson
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Summary

The epic successor to one of the most important books of the century: at once a retelling of global history, a scathing critique of contemporary politics, and a bold proposal for a new and fairer economic system

Thomas Piketty’s best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century galvanized global debate about inequality. In this audacious follow-up, Piketty challenges us to revolutionize how we think about politics, ideology, and history. He exposes the ideas that have sustained inequality for the past millennium, reveals why the shallow politics of right and left are failing us today, and outlines the structure of a fairer economic system. 

Our economy, Piketty observes, is not a natural fact. Markets, profits, and capital are all historical constructs that depend on choices. Piketty explores the material and ideological interactions of conflicting social groups that have given us slavery, serfdom, colonialism, communism, and hypercapitalism, shaping the lives of billions. He concludes that the great driver of human progress over the centuries has been the struggle for equality and education, and not, as often argued, the assertion of property rights or the pursuit of stability. The new era of extreme inequality that has derailed that progress since the 1980s, he shows, is partly a reaction against communism, but it is also the fruit of ignorance, intellectual specialization, and our drift toward the dead-end politics of identity. 

Once we understand this, we can begin to envision a more balanced approach to economics and politics. Piketty argues for a new “participatory” socialism, a system founded on an ideology of equality, social property, education, and the sharing of knowledge and power. Capital and Ideology is destined to be one of the indispensable books of our time, a work that will not only help us understand the world, but that will change it.

©2020 Thomas Piketty; Arthur Goldhammer - translation (P)2020 Harvard University

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worth the effort

very enjoyable and thought provoking, particularly the historical analysis in the first parts of the book. The conclusions sound like wishful thinking today but the trend of discourse is towards piketty's ideas, establishing him as one of our era's leading thinkers

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exceptionally informative

I've never been interested in history, but this book kept me intrigued right the way through with its constant enlightening historical facts. The author enabled a novice like me to follow and understand the complicated history of various countries. In all honesty, I'm blown away. I would highly recommend it to anyone who knows little, as well as anyone who thinks they know something about socio-economic history. Fantastic!

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A very informative read

Massive though it is, thus is a very interesting book, so doesn't bore.

Suffers from using too many big words, when little ones may be more understandable.

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Absolutely fantastic!

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It is an absolute intellectual tour-de-force by Piketty and superbly narrated by Rick Adams.

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Deeply technical

An important book to be sure, but the audiobook format does it few favours. Stylistically the book is a textbook: The text is constantly interrupted by references to figures and tables available on the accompanying pdf, and the arguments rely heavily on statistical data difficult to interpret without actually seeing the numbers.

I might end up purchasing a paper copy, but can’t truly recommend the audiobook edition.

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Amazing book

this is very helpful to understand the world we currently live in, a must read!

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A monumental yet very accessible achievement

It’s a testament to how engaged I was through the 49 hours of this book that not only did I occasionally listen two or three times to certain sections but I went out and bought a hard copy too. Not because the concepts involved are too difficult to understand - indeed I found this book much less technical than Piketty’s previous book, Capital in the 21st Century. Yet there is simply so much to absorb. The whole point of the book is the study of inequality across time, including in pre-capitalist societies and such remnants of these as survived in to the 20th Century, as well as communist, post-communist and what Piketty refers to as hyper-capitalist (the political left would often say neoliberal) societies of today.

It provides a great deal of food for thoughts regardless of whether you agree with the ultimate solutions proposed, of essentially barring the transmission of wealth across generations, permitting inequality of property ownership and in wage differentials (as the market will determine remuneration according to the value-added of the job undertaken) but enabling equal opportunities by creating a universal endowment that each family can choose to spend on education, and which the individual when of age might utilise as start-up capital should they wish to launch a business. I don’t agree with any of that. I also don’t think it is remotely politically workable. Yet it is presented with flair and imagination, at a time when so many politicians and talking heads try to ratchet down our expectations,

My only note of caution is that this is a great book as a starting point in some of the historical areas. In those areas where I feel qualified to comment, e.g. the USSR, Piketty can be superficial (the planned economy failed because it didn’t allow for choice and locked too many people up, is the basic point) or else there is a tendency to bypass or give scant details on major moments where inequality was addressed consciously, both politically and economically, through the labour movements of the various countries looked at. This is a curious omission since the labour movement is precisely the only set of organisations that can slice through the division of society into right populists and left liberals (Piketty’s terms for these I like very much, social nativism and Brahmin left) and thus establish the basis for a politics of redistribution. Yet the specific histories of how these moments arrived and only partly succeeded, or were rolled back, is not addressed in any depth.

Despite these minor quibbles, this is a book of stupendous ambition and sweeping breadth of knowledge and analysis. That makes it all the more remarkable that it is so digestible. Strong, strong recommendation to anyone with even a passing interest in politics.

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Good ideas, narrator poor

Interesting ideas but goes into the minutiae too much to keep an engaging flow of ideas. a stricter editor would have really helped as there's a whole bunch of interesting concepts under debate here.

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Thus far, the best book of the century.

Amazing work, the analysis is absorbing and cutting. I agreed with everything bar its pro immigration stance.

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Essential but very technical

US narrator = less empathy with content but worth the effort. Participatory socialism must come!

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