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Publisher's Summary

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from 20 countries, ranging as far back as the 18th century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.
Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality - the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth - today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.
A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.
©2014 the President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"L.J. Ganser's voice and accents are superb, and emphasis is well placed." (AudioFile)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kazuhiko on 06-14-14

Audio format still useful to get the gist of it

I agree with the other reviewer who warned that the PDF has 106 pages of figures and tables and that the audio format may not be the best way to "read" this book.

However, in my case, there is no way for me, who is not an economist or a student, to get through 685 pages (577 pages of main text and figures plus notes, index, etc.) in the hardcover copy just by, uh, reading. While the audiobook's 25 hours is longer than the length of an average audiobook, I got through it in less than 10 days just by listening during my daily commute and chores, and I feel I got the gist of the content. It was interesting enough and, I felt I missed some important aspects of the argument depicted in the figures, so I went out and got a hardcopy and a notebook so that I can even take notes. Yes, this audiobook got me interested in this book.

An unexpected bonus of this book for me was the author's references to the characters and the financial/societal backdrops of stories by Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac. I did not realize how much I missed and did not comprehend the important nuances of the stories from the 19th centuries world (or 18th or 20th for that matter). We don't usually pay attention to how culture is influenced by the distribution of capital in the society and how that affects day-to-day mood of people in it.

I noticed that this book has been greatly politicized. But to me, the book simply provides DATA-DRIVEN analyses and recommendations for a fair society.

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93 of 102 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Madeleine on 05-22-14

The Financial Times' Critique Doesn't Detract

It is a deep shame that the Financial Times' critique of Piketty's data is going to put some people off from buying and listening to this book, because a few quibbles about a very small amount of the data (on the UK only) doesn't detract from the validity of this detailed piece of analysis. It won't matter that many other well-respected economists defend Piketty's use of the data, or the robustness of his argument. For the readers of the FT, for those who represent the top 10% of weathholders, or those who aspire to be one of them, this book is a fundamental threat to their plans.

It's a long book, and it takes some concentration to listen to. Looking at the linked PDFs help to bring the stats and numbers to life. But I found it incredibly worthwhile. The central argument - that R>G (capital always trumps growth) is successfully and persuasively argued six ways from Sunday. And that is something not even Piketty's most vehement detractors can argue against.

Nor did I find Piketty's conclusions and suggestions even close to being the 'radical marxist' ones that he's been accused of holding by the press. He's conscious of the fundamental value of entrepreneurship, of a vibrant market.

When all is said and done, this book will polarize its readers along ideological lines. Because ultimately he's asking the question: what do we want our society to look like? He argues very persuasively that many of the ways we have sought to establish fairness and meritocracy in society have been ineffective in the long run.

This book threatens those who continue to perpetuate the myth that there are even playing fields: that financial success is based on merit, that opportunity is available to everyone, that trickle-down economics works, that education is the great leveler. There are good reasons why certain groups find this book threatening. It erodes the very thin veneer that the free market is truly free.

But it is also a very optimistic book. Piketty offers some very 'unradical' solutions for how to mitigate the problem of rapidly accelerating wealth concentration. It's not a 'downer' at all.

The narration is good for such a long and complex book. Well chosen to be easy on the ears but still engage the concentration. I found it well worth the credit and the time I spent on it.

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136 of 153 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By David on 08-08-14

The most talked about non-fiction book this year

This is a mega-work - both in length and impact. The most detailed study of the distribution of wealth for decades - a monumental work of scholarship - and a powerful polemic for the effective global taxation of wealth. It's not the ideal Audible Book because you need to print off loads of PDF charts to really make sense of it, which, since I was listening to it at the gym, was a bit of a problem. Also because it has provoked a lot of debate, including over the accuracy of some of the data, you may prefer to spend your time tuning into the debate on-line; unless you are a professional economist, in which case you will have already read it and have an annotated hard-back copy on your shelf. I committed to the twenty plus hours of listening and learnt a lot. I especially like some of the incidental historical detail and the sections where he goes off-piste and gives us his views on the Euro crisis. I was convinced by both the analysis and the polemic. He is open enough to put all his data on-line. The critique by the FT's economics editor casts doubt on some of it, but Piketty's response is strong, and the fundamental argument that inequality is growing because the returns to capital are growing at a faster rate than the standard of living of the majority of the population survives intact.

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18 of 19 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jeannie on 08-16-15

Great book - pity about the editing of the reading

Would you consider the audio edition of Capital in the Twenty-First Century to be better than the print version?

It was great to have them both, and to be able to switch between then with WhisperSync, but there were so many glitches in the reading that it was often difficult to understand the point Piketty was making.

The text was translated from the French, and the sentences were long - very long - and very complex. Ganser would start a sentence with a particular intonation, and then realise half way through the sentence that it wasn't going to end quite as he thought, so he would either change his intonation, which made it difficult to follow, as the two halves of the sentence no longer 'belonged' together, or he wouldn't change his intonation, which would make it almost impossible to understand the grammar of the sentence.

I have every sympathy with his predicament, as it is a long and complicated book, and it is impossible to get everything right the first time - but if the audio publisher had been prepared to re-record and splice in more coherent narration at significant points in the text, it would have made such a difference.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Capital in the Twenty-First Century?

Realising that economics is not just an objective science, but depends on your point of view and what you think is important about human life.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of L. J. Ganser?

His voice was great, and the performance full of enthusiasm, so if the audio publisher had done a bit more work on the editing of the recording, I would think him ideal.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Not sure it would make a very good film!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Brett on 05-07-17

Required reading

I made the mistake of listening to rather than reading this brilliant book. With the prevalence of numbers, equations and graphs it would have been better on the page. That said, it is so clearly written that I was still able to follow and absorb the dense content on audio.

This should be required reading for everyone. The breadth and depth of research is incredible, regardless of what you make of Picketty's final suggestions, which he largely cordons off to the closing chapters. This is the ultimate 'step back and see the big picture' explanation of wealth, wages, taxes and the historic interplay thereof. For an economic layman such as myself I now feel like I have a grasp on a subject that is mystified for most of us but affects all of us. In fact, money dictates our lives but we barely understand and certainly don't question the system that distributes it. Another way to think about it: You see that the childish bickering of the daily political news cycle and think you understand economics. Reading the book is stepping back and seeing that the children are all in the same plane as it spirals out of control. Too few people are talking in these broader terms but it's critical that everyone becomes economically literate and this book is the best avenue to do so that I know of. Read it and recommend it to everyone.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jacob on 05-30-16

not especially well suited to audio

understandable. not too technical, but very detailed with lots of numbers. perhaps better in print.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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