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Thomas Piketty’s New Book

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Thomas Piketty is out with a new book Capital Et Idéologie.Picture credit L’ObsHis tweet, announcing. The English version will be released in a few months.Branko Milanovic has already read it and his review has this explanation of Piketty’s brilliant phrase, Brahmin Left:… In [the second] part, we find the Piketty who plays to his strength: bold and innovative use of data which produces a new way of looking at phenomena that we all observe but were unable to define so precisely. Here, Piketty is “playing” on the familiar Western economic history “terrain” that he knows well, probably better than any other economist.This part of the book looks empirically at the reasons that left-wing, or social democratic parties have gradually transformed themselves from being the parties of the

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Thomas Piketty is out with a new book Capital Et Idéologie.

Thomas Piketty’s New Book

Picture credit L’Obs

His tweet, announcing. The English version will be released in a few months.

Branko Milanovic has already read it and his review has this explanation of Piketty’s brilliant phrase, Brahmin Left:

… In [the second] part, we find the Piketty who plays to his strength: bold and innovative use of data which produces a new way of looking at phenomena that we all observe but were unable to define so precisely. Here, Piketty is “playing” on the familiar Western economic history “terrain” that he knows well, probably better than any other economist.

This part of the book looks empirically at the reasons that left-wing, or social democratic parties have gradually transformed themselves from being the parties of the less-educated and poorer classes to become the parties of the educated and affluent middle and upper-middle classes. To a large extent, traditionally left parties have changed because their original social-democratic agenda was so successful in opening up education and high-income possibilities to the people who in the 1950s and 1960s came from modest backgrounds. These people, the “winners” of social democracy, continued voting for left-wing parties but their interests and worldview were no longer the same as that of their (less-educated) parents. The parties’ internal social structure thus changed—the product of their own political and social success. In Piketty’s terms, they became the parties of the “Brahmin left” (La gauche Brahmane), as opposed to the conservative right-wing parties, which remained the parties of the “merchant right” (La droite marchande).

To simplify, the elite became divided between the educated “Brahmins” and the more commercially-minded “investors,” or capitalists. This development, however, left the people who failed to experience upward educational and income mobility unrepresented, and those people are the ones that feed the current “populist” wave. Quite extraordinarily, Piketty shows the education and income shifts of left-wing parties’ voters using very similar long-term data from all major developed democracies (and India). The fact that the story is so consistent across countries lends an almost uncanny plausibility to his hypothesis.

One of the finest insights on political economy!

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