April 29, 2014

Why Piketty’s Book Is a Bigger Deal in America Than in France

Tyler Cowen

Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University

Veronique de Rugy

Senior Research Fellow
Summary

The American response to Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality has been rapturous, with reviews comparing the author, a French economist, to Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

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The American response to Thomas Piketty’s new book on inequality has been rapturous, with reviews comparing the author, a French economist, to Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

Oddly, the French’s response to their native son’s book has been considerably more aloof. While French journalists and pundits enjoyed the book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” there was no Beatlemania and, unlike Esquire magazine, no one declared it “the most important book of the century.”

Doug Henwood, a journalist for Left Business Observer, who is writing about the book’s reception in America for a French audience, says in an email that the book’s success in the United States “has the French scratching their heads,” although French sales are starting to pick up. Some found the book interesting when it was published in French last year, others found it lacking, but most French reviewers and intellectuals reacted as they would to any other recent economics book of interest.

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