Piketty's political economy

Christopher Sheil

This book presents novel challenges for its reviewers, or at least those working to the gentle beat of academic journals. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is not only the biggest blockbuster to burst from the field of political economy in living memory, it’s also the international book trade’s success story of the year.

Originally published in France in 2013, the English language version was published in the United States on 28 March 2014 and has occupied the New York Times best-seller list for most of the past six months, with many weeks in the top spot. Politico magazine recently reported that the book’s going global with editions in 20 more languages by January 2015. Sales figures as at September 2014 were said to be half a million, including 200,000 in French, and the product will soon be selling in China, Brazil, Japan and Argentina.

A full final distribution of a million or more doesn’t seem far-fetched. Indeed, with successive editions over time, it’s not inconceivable that Capital in the Twenty-First Century could eventually become the best-selling book of economics ever, a milestone that’s often said to be the four million or so in 41 languages sold by Paul Samuelson’s textbook. 

The already brilliant career of Capital in the Twenty-First Century renders superfluous many of the review’s usual functions. Few observers of the literary, academic or political worlds will have not heard of the book by now. Practically everybody in this journal’s catchment area will know of it, many will have read it, and most will have at least formed a preliminary opinion. With these rather unique circumstances in mind, here I’ll try to combine the reviewer’s duty to relate the book with an ear to the critical voices.

Read the full article at:

Journal of Australian Political Economy

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Suggested citation
Sheil, Christopher, 'Piketty's political economy', Evatt Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1, December 2015.<http://evatt.org.au/news/pikettys-political-economy.html>