Dossier Society Economy

Debating Inequalities : Transatlantic Perspectives

by The editorial team & Lucie Campos & Caitlin Zaloom , 3 November 2014
with the support of Public Books

In this virtual roundtable published in partnership with Public Books, four participants from France, Germany and the US re-visit the inequalities debate sparked by Thomas Piketty’s Capital, comparing perceptions of income, economic equality and political economy.

This spring Thomas Piketty’ s Capital in the 21st century was published in English to instant best-seller status and wide acclaim and debate. In the United States, his author appearances drew enormous audiences. The book, originally published in French, draws on three centuries of evidence across nations to expose the roots of economic inequality. It makes a powerful historical and empirical observation: that returns on capital outpace the rate of economic growth, without significant state intervention. But what meaning can we draw from the intellectual upwelling around Piketty’s book? How might we now think of “Economie politique” or “Political Economy,” both culturally and politically in France, in Europe, and in the United States? What concerns does his book obscure? And how might we be to advance an agenda to address the varied sources of economic inequality?

This month La Vie des Idees/Books & Ideas is delighted to announce our first collaboration with our American partner journal Public Books, to examine the recent “Piketty Effect” through different perspectives on recent trends in inequalities, in Europe and in the US. Our first pair of essays, by the American sociologist Erik Olin Wright and French economist Nicolas Frémeaux, address the questions of class and income distribution that remain inchoate in Piketty’s work. Our second set of essays, co-published next fortnight in Public Books’ November 15th issue, will be a second set of reflections by American feminist economist Nancy Folbre and Dusseldorf-based economist, Ulrike Stein.

In this virtual roundtable:
 “Stay classy, Piketty”, by Erik Olin Wright
 “Inequalities between 2007 and 2014”, by Nicolas Frémeaux
 “Political Economy and Inequalities in Germany”, by Ulrike Stein
 “Power to the Piketties”, by Nancy Folbre.

by The editorial team & Lucie Campos & Caitlin Zaloom, 3 November 2014

Further reading

To read the essays on the pages of our partner journal Public Books, we invite you to follow this link. La Vie des Idées/Books & Ideas and Public Books will be taking part in a public debate on this co-publication project in New York, on Friday 7th of November 2014.

To quote this article :

The editorial team & Lucie Campos & Caitlin Zaloom, « Debating Inequalities : Transatlantic Perspectives », Books and Ideas , 3 November 2014. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

Nota Bene:

If you want to discuss this essay further, you can send a proposal to the editorial team (redaction at We will get back to you as soon as possible.

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