Tuesday, May 6, 2014

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

Michael Roberts

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 read it. Have you tried?
IC: Some of his essays, but not the economics work.
TP: The Communist Manifesto of 1848 is a short and strong piece. Das Kapital, I think, is very difficult to read and for me it was not very influential.
IC: Because your book, obviously with the title, it seemed like you were tipping your hat to him in some ways.
TP: No not at all, not at all! The big difference is that my book is a book about the history of capital. In the books of Marx there’s no data.

Interview in New Republic magazine

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