Comment on LSE Book Review: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

No doubt, the book is important. Yet what I would emphasize is that although it bears political implications, recommending the ‘return to progressive taxation’, capitalism, an economic system based on private property, is considered autonomously from politics–political history and theory. This is even more striking as the author claims it is a social theory.

In this context, the “high levels of taxation” is indeed ‘exceptional’ for capitalism itself by definition, but the same did present a part of the rules of game operating capitalism  during the progressive taxation period as an economic policy of the welfare state–the nation state. Consequently, as such it is not ‘exceptional’ to the latter at all, it is just its economic policy. Indeed, seek behind capitalism’s recent comeback as an independent player with its destabilizing consequences the failure of social democracy as a political ideology and theory as well as generally, that of the nation-state, modernity’s project based among others on the politics-economics separation. in short, economics– namely, capitalism–has undermined politics, kept under the auspices of the most ambiguous term of ‘globalization’. Not surprisingly, according to capitalism’s utilitarian nature, it mainly appreciates ‘me’ but less ‘us’, so being freed from state’s restraints it comes into contradiction with society and state representing ‘us’. In fact, we have got capitalism ‘as it is’–the wild capitalism–when the state relations themselves have been revisited in the idiom of the economic way of thinking. That it ‘is bound to create tremendous inequality of wealth’ it lies in its own economic nature, but whether it would be so actually  it would depend on state economic policy. So do not blame capitalism as such; it is not bad or good in itself. Blame politics and more narrowly, political theory or even the humanities in general for lack in the competence in theorizing the separation or rather, the politics-economics relation. Additionally, a clear answer to what is a common good and how it relates to a person’s individual interests and needs  is needed. In that case, the triad of structure, culture and agency should be included in such a theoretical frame. The reviewer’s notice that the book tends to ignore agency and agency-structure relation seems to be to the point here.

Another important methodological topic is the notion that literature is a mirror of society.

I theorize about the topics in a paper available at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10746-013-9274-0

 

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