[Marxism] The Slack Wire: Notes from Capital in the 21st Century Panel

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 21 20:26:37 MDT 2014

Notes from Capital in the 21st Century Panel
by Suresh Naidu

While I have a long piece on Piketty's book coming out in Jacobin, I was 
lucky enough to be a discussant on a panel with Thomas last Thursday, 
where I got a chance to lay out some second-order reactions to the book 
as well as talk with him a bit. Here are my notes from that, tidied up a 
bit and including some things I didn’t get to say.

Perhaps a useful analogy is that this is the "Free to Choose" or 
“Capitalism and Freedom” for our time, from the left. I can’t think of a 
book that emerged from economics for a mass audience with as much 
reception since then. And what good news this is for economics! For 50 
years Milton Friedman was the public face of partisan economics, and 
stamped it with a conservative public face that persisted. Maybe now 
Piketty’s book will give my discipline another public face.

But let me push back against the book a bit. I think there is a 
"domesticated" version of the argument that economists and people that 
love economists will take away. Then there is a less domesticated one, 
one that is more challenging to economics as it is currently done. I'm 
curious which one Thomas believes more. I worry that the impact of the 
book will be blunted because it becomes a “Bastard Piketty-ism” and 
allows macroeconomics to continue in its modelling conventions, which 
are particularly ill-suited to questions of inequality.


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