Capital and Ideology is an even more ambitious book than Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Where the latter focused on inequality trends in western capitalism over the past 200 years, the new book offers a history of almost everything. The chronology begins with a sweeping overview of feudal and other pre-modern economies, and ends with the dilemmas posed by the gilets jaunes. The geographic range is global, adding Brazil, Russia, India and China (the “Brics”) to his previous analyses of Europe and the US. Slavery and colonialism are covered at length.
[The closing paragraph of this review says a lot! The “democratization” of data and computer capacity allows us to model alternatives, e.g. degrowth, which may eventually bring on “the revolution”.]
What would drive someone to write a book like this? If Piketty has one core political and methodological belief it is in the emancipatory power of public data: that when people are given sufficient evidence about the structures of society, they will insist on greater equality until they are granted it. Amid the distraction and perpetual outrage of our dysfunctional public sphere, this enlightenment confidence in empirics feels beamed in from another age. It also makes for a unique scholarly edifice, which will be impossible to ignore.