Thomas Piketty

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Thomas Piketty (2015)

Thomas Piketty (born May 7, 1971 in Clichy near Paris , Département Hauts-de-Seine ) is a French economist . He is a professor at the Parisian elite university École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

In 2014, his publication Das Kapital in the 21st Century (French 2013: Le Capital au XXIe siècle ) attracted a lot of attention worldwide, especially in the United States .


Piketty graduated from the baccalaureate in 1987 when he was sixteen . After the usual two years in a préparatoire class , he began to study economics at the École normal supérieure (ENS) in 1989 at the age of eighteen . At the age of 22, Piketty received his PhD with a thesis on redistribution , which he had written at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the London School of Economics , and which was funded in the European Doctoral Program in Quantitative Economics . From 1993 to 1995 he taught as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1995 he became a member of the Center national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and in 2000 director of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), since 2007 he has also taught at the Paris School of Economics, which is affiliated there .

During the election campaign for the 2007 presidential election in France , Piketty was economic policy advisor to the socialist candidate Ségolène Royal , who ultimately lost to the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy with 46.94 percent of the vote .

Piketty became known to the general public with the English-language edition of his work Capital in the Twenty-First Century in 2014, which, when it was published, was extremely discussed for an economics book both within professional circles and in the general media.

He has been married to the economist Julia Cagé since 2014 .


Piketty's research focuses on the distribution of income , wealth distribution and social inequality . According to the FAZ, he understands economics as a social science that should be about using real data to discuss or even solve real problems. His approach is a social democratic- popperian anthropology of capital .


Long-term research in collaboration with colleagues (especially Anthony Atkinson and Emmanuel Saez ) on the distribution of income shows that after a decline in economic inequality in the western industrialized nations between the 1940s and 1970s, social inequality increased again.

Piketty's study of income taxes showed that France's income inequality decreased after World War II. He attributes this to the rise in tax progression in France at the time.

According to Piketty, the increase in income inequality after the 1970s also explains part of the financial crisis from 2007 : "If the financial sector grows too fast, this promotes the income gap, because corresponding asset gains primarily benefit the top incomes".

Piketty and his colleagues' data on income distribution, and particularly top wealth in different countries, led to the World Top Income Database , which has been accessible online since 2011.


In Capital in the 21st Century , Piketty combines his previous historical research on the distribution of income and wealth with a theory of capitalism. He argues that unregulated capitalism inevitably leads to increased concentration of wealth. A high concentration of wealth leads to a stagnating economy and is a threat to democracy.

As soon as the return on investment (" r ") is greater than economic growth (" g "), ie " r > g ", this development occurs. In history r was usually greater than g , in the 19th century it was then for the first time g > r . However, from the end of the 19th century to the time of the First World War, capital income would have increased sharply compared to economic growth. The great inequality of this era (known as the Belle Époque in Europe and the Gilded Age in the USA ) was then ended by the First World War. This as well as the Great Depression and the Second World War led to a reduction in the concentration of wealth and thus to the fact that economic growth was greater than capital income ( g > r ). This development stopped around 1980. Since then - so in capital and ideology - the “neo-proprietary” society has only seen weak growth rates with steeply rising inequality. The social democratic electorate was also exchanged in all western countries: Today it mainly includes the cohort of academics (“Brahmanic left”) in place of the earlier, predominantly educationally disadvantaged working class whose humiliating loss of representation must worry everyone.

In an interview with ZEIT , Piketty claimed that Germany was the country that never paid its debts from the world wars. In a guest article in the same newspaper, historian Christopher Kopper accused him of having made a mistake in analyzing historical precedents.

In Le Monde , Piketty blamed the unequal distribution of wealth for terrorism.


A comprehensive commentary on Piketty's main work critical of capitalism was presented by Stephan Kaufmann and Ingo Stützle . Richard Sutch complains that Piketty interpolated many of the underlying historical data incompletely and incorrectly. The economic historian Mary O'Sullivan also criticizes Piketty: "He cannot explain the trend of inequality - because he ignores the question of profit."

honors and awards






Technical articles

  • with Emmanuel Saez, Stefanie Stantcheva: Optimal taxation of top labor incomes: a tale of three elasticites. In: American economic journal: economic policy. Volume 6, No. 1, 2014, pp. 230-271 ( PDF).
  • with Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony Atkinson, Emmanuel Saz: The top 1% in international and historical perspective In: Journal of economic perspectives. Volume 27, No. 3, 2013, pp. 1–21 ( PDF).
  • with Anthony Atkinson, Emmanuel Saez: Top Incomes in the Long Run of History. In: Journal of Economic Literature. Volume 49, No. 1, pp. 3-71 ( PDF).

Newspaper articles

Books on Piketty

Web links

Commons : Thomas Piketty  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas Piketty: Curriculum vitae - September 2013 ; Paris School of Economics, accessed on April 22, 2014 (pdf; 52 kB)
  2. ^ Taking On Adam Smith (and Karl Marx) ; Steven Erlanger; The New York Times, accessed April 28, 2014
  3. ^ Thomas Piketty: a modern French revolutionary New Statesman , April 3, 2014
  4. Comment Thomas Piketty est devenu un gourou mondial . In: L'Obs . ( [accessed February 11, 2017]).
  5. On Tour With Rock Star Economist Thomas Piketty . In: Daily Intelligencer . ( [accessed February 11, 2017]).
  6. ^ FAZ , May 8, 2014
  7. Nils Minkmar: The new star of the intellectual scene. In: . May 7, 2014, accessed October 13, 2018 .
  8. ^ Mathias Ohanian, Thomas Fricke : Neue Denker (3): Piketty - When the rich pay too little taxes ( memento from July 30, 2012 in the web archive ); Portrait in the Financial Times Deutschland on March 30, 2010.
  10. ^ Andreas Zielcke in Süddeutsche Zeitung v. March 11, 2020, p. 11 Forward without Marx .
  11. Thomas Piketty “Germany has never paid” , Interview, Die Zeit , June 27, 2015
  12. Christopher Kopper: "Two Wars, One Disaster" Die Zeit, August 2, 2015
  13. ^ Why inequality is to blame for the rise of the islamic state
  14. ^ Stephan Kaufmann / Ingo Stützle: Capitalism. The first 200 years. Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" - Introduction, Debate, Criticism. 112 pages, 13 illustrations, paperback, 10.5 × 14.8 cm. 4th, revised edition, Bertz + Fischer, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86505-730-3 .
  15. ^ Social Science History 2017
  16. Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Economic historian Mary O'Sullivan: “We still don't know what profit is”. Retrieved June 12, 2019 .
  17. ^ Prix ​​du meilleur jeune économiste 2002., May 22, 2002, accessed on December 9, 2015 (French).
  18. ^ Robert Jungk Library for Future Issues (ed.): ProZukunft . No. 2014/4 . Robert Jungk Library for Future Issues, Salzburg 2014, p. 32 .
  19. ^ Spiegel Online: Piketty rejects membership in the Legion of Honor . Article dated January 1, accessed January 1, 2015.
  20. Beck Verlag Jahrhundert/product/13923624?adword=google&msclkid= 8461a6177ad819461550f87f15621e4d ; Frankfurter Rundschau
  21. ^ Tanja Kuchenbecker: Thomas Piketty's second book. In: Tagesspiegel. Retrieved September 16, 2019 .
  22. Daniel Binswanger : Inequality is not a law of nature. In: , October 12, 2019 (review)