Back to Main List
Back to Book List

Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

American Inequliaty 2

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty




"Is it possible to imagine societies in which the concentration of income is much greater [then currently in America or pre-revoltuion France]? Probably not...That said, there are no grounds for asserting that the upper decile can never claim more than 50 percent of national income or that a country’s economy would collapse if this symbolic threshold were crossed...[I]t is possible that under the Ancien Régime, right up to the eve of the French Revolution, the top decile did take more than 50 percent and even as much as 60 percent or perhaps slightly more of national income. More generally, this may have been the case in other traditional rural societies. Indeed, whether such extreme inequality is or is not sustainable depends not only on the effectiveness of the repressive apparatus but also, and perhaps primarily, on the effectiveness of the apparatus of justification. If inequalities are seen as justified, say because they seem to be a consequence of a choice by the rich to work harder or more efficiently than the poor, or because preventing the rich from earning more would inevitably harm the worst-off members of society, then it is perfectly possible for the concentration of income to set new historical records." - Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013)