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Thomas Piketty: the book of the moment

This is a huge book, more than 700 pages long, dense with footnotes, graphs and mathematical formulae. At first sight it is unashamedly an academic tome and seems both daunting and incomprehensible. In recent weeks and months the book has however set off fierce debates in the United States about the dynamics of capitalism, and especially the apparently unstoppable rise of the tiny elite that controls more and more of the world's wealth. In non-specialist blogs and websites across America, it has ignited arguments about power and money, questioning the myth at the very heart of American life – that capitalism improves the quality of life for everyone. This is just not so, says Piketty, and he makes his case in a clear and rigorous manner that debunks everything that capitalists believe about the ethical status of making money.

The groundbreaking status of the book was recognised by a recent long essay in the New Yorker in which Branko Milanovic, a former senior economist at the World Bank, was quoted as describing Piketty's volume as "one of the watershed books in economic thinking". In the same vein, a writer in the Economist reported that Piketty's work fundamentally rewrote 200 years of economic thinking on inequality...

Unlike many economists he insists that economic thinking cannot be separated from history or politics; this is what gives his book the range the American Nobel laureate Paul Krugman described as "epic" and a "sweeping vision".

Here you can watch a presentation and discussion with Piketty on 15 April in Washington, as moderated by Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, with Josh Bivens, Research and Policy Director of the Economic Policy Institute, Robert M. Solow, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Betsey Stevenson, Member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, serving as discussants.

Update: Here you can watch a discussion on Piketty's work between Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman on 20 April.

Update: Here you can watch a presentation and discussion with Piketty at the Graduate Centre, CNUY, featuring Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University), Paul Krugman (Princeton University), and Steven Durlauf (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Branko Milanovic on 23 April. 

Update: Krugman on 'The Piketty Panic' (i.e., the conservative response), 24 April. (See also the Huffington Post on the conservative campaign to rig Amazon's book ratings.)

Update: Piketty's formal response to the FT's allegations; New York Times summary of the position. (27 May)

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