Thomas Piketty’s monumental Capital in the Twenty-First Century has transported us to a higher understanding of the historical evolution of inequality. This essay attempts to inventory the different avenues of research, more or less promising, that scholars might usefully pursue when building on his work. The most important path to follow is the history of inequalities in income that Piketty and his team have flagged up so well, supported by the book’s history of the great shocks of the twentieth century and the political responses that they elicited. Less promising is the book’s emphasis on wealth, capital, and the rate of return. The best predictions of future inequality can be achieved by merging Piketty and his team’s history of those who hold the top 10 percent of income with works dedicated to the history of inequality within the lower 90 percent. It is also necessary to integrate other scholarship that has demonstrated that the sort of democratic system Piketty calls for would have positive effects on growth.
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