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Have you read Piketty? Well, he has not read Marx

May 6, 2014

Very interesting.

Michael Roberts Blog

I said that I was not going to do another post on Thomas Piketty and his book Capital in the 21st century (see my previous posts).  But I could not resist this.

There has been a bit of a campaign against criticisms of Piketty’s book by some leftists, who argue that Marxist critics in particular have not read Piketty’s book and they should be less critical and more positive.  Well, I have read it, but it seems that Piketty has not read Marx, although he slams Marx’s explanation of capitalism at various points throughout his book.

Here is an interview with Piketty in New Republic magazine.

IC: Can you talk a little bit about the effect of Marx on your thinking and how you came to start reading him?
TP: Marx?
IC: Yeah.
TP: I never managed really to read it. I mean I don’t know if you’ve tried to…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. guabin permalink
    May 7, 2014 5:25 pm

    To be a sceptic. Tactful response from Piketty – though he surely speaks, not really for himself, but for those many who, ages ago, had to slog through Marx. Otherwise, his many US critics who have already condemned his work on inequality in the US and its root causes, without even having read (or understood) it, would have had more ammunition – much more of the ‘Piketty’s a Marxist’ silliness. In addition to his being French. An excellent response for an exceptional US market.

  2. May 7, 2014 6:07 pm

    Maybe he was being tactical, as you say, but it is interesting that he explicitly disavows any connection between the name of his book and Das Kapital.

  3. May 7, 2014 7:40 pm

    I do find it funny, though, that i’ve read about a dozen reviews of the book yet only read about a quarter of it. Rather spoils the ending, I suspect. The umbrage of hardcore Marxists is also a sound to behold. It’s if no-one, least of all a contemporary Frenchman, can surpass the great one, however solid their data or analysis. I always find concretised doctrines suspicious. As soon as you actually see and feel the world, dirty and illogical as it is, you realise that theories are thinking tools rather than descriptions of reality, and that however wonderful the prescience and nuance of a theory, it’s only a theory.

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