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Book Review

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political economy, inequality, stratification, redistribution, tax, tax evasion, tax havens, social science, philosophy of social science, economics, law & economics, Piketty, capital, capitalism, industrial policy, merit, desert, egalitarianism, social justice, finance


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.


Reviewing Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a rare scholarly achievement. It weaves together description and prescription, facts and values, economics, politics, and history, with an assured and graceful touch. So clear is Piketty’s reasoning, and so compelling the enormous data apparatus he brings to bear, that few can doubt he has fundamentally altered our appreciation of the scope, duration, and intensity of inequality. This review explains Piketty’s analysis and its relevance to law and social theory, drawing lessons for the re-emerging field of political economy.

The university enables interdisciplinary work, and political economy is an ideally hybrid discursive space for this process of mutual inspiration and correction. Lawyers are particularly well-suited to the task of studying political economy, because we are the ones drafting, interpreting, and applying the rules governing the interface between state actors and firms. Integrating the long-divided fields of politics and economics, a renewal of modern political economy could unravel problems inadequately addressed by narrower specializations. Piketty’s work shows how inquiries in both law and political economy will be enriched by their interaction.

Publication Citation

Boundary 2 Review


Law and Society