With this post, following on from the Piketty Digests, my aim is to present all eighteen questions that accompany each post in one location. The original purpose of these questions was pedagogical in completing each summary with a provocation to my own students on The Political Economy of Global Capitalism (ECOP2613) to think differently about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. 

The modest ambition was that this pedagogical impetus would also resonate more widely. So, here are all eighteen questions related to the Piketty Digests, in one place, with the hyperlink for each taking you to the individual blog post.

  1. Why does the rate of return on capital matter to democratic questions of wealth and distribution within political economy?
  2. Within the context of capitalism to what extent are ‘rising powers’ in a process of developmental catch-up or subject to the continued polarisation and lock-in of centre-periphery relations?
  3. To what extent are there universalist assumptions of modernisation theory embedded in Thomas Piketty’s notion of developmental catch-up and economic take off in growth?
  4. In stating that it was only “natural” to question the wisdom of expanding the role of the state after the Trente Glorieuses of the 1940s to the 1970s, is Thomas Piketty getting dangerously close to evoking a discourse about the inevitability of the rise of neoliberalism?
  5. Why might it be important to consider the political economy of US empire and informal imperialism in the transition to global capitalism?
  6. What is at stake in questioning how nature is socially produced under capitalism and what are the concrete relationships through which nature becomes invested with social priorities?
  7. For such a prominent book, why does Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century seemingly appear to be so remiss in failing to directly engage the texts and debates he dismisses?
  8. Is the past and present development of class struggle simply one amongst many poetic narratives or ‘fairy stories’ shaping the drama of history?
  9. Why is mention of global war and the Great Depression insufficient as causal explanation for the relative reduction of US income inequality in the twentieth century?
  10. How can social norms be conceived as material social processes in a way that surpasses the deficits of discourse, whilst avoiding the problems of economism, and why does a certain set of ideas, rooted in material relations, come to dominate at a particular point in time?
  11. Is the use of specific literary sources—such as Honoré de Balzac or Jane Austen—as historical sources in understanding inequalities of capital ownership actually intrinsic to Piketty’s argument or simply a surface appearance?
  12. How is the concept of democracy in the modern world related to capitalism and how might democracy go beyond the limits imposed on it by capitalism?
  13. To what extent can the conditions of both equalisation and differentiation be considered contradictory products and enduring features of the uneven development of capitalism?
  14. What is more utopian, to assume that a better life within capitalism is economically-environmentally-socially sustainable, or that a radical departure beyond capitalism is possible?
  15. How would you defend, or undermine, the case that the optimal tax rate in developed countries should be above 80 percent applied to incomes above $500,000 or $1 million a year?
  16. To what extent are market regulating proposals to control finance part of anti-capitalist struggles for socialism?
  17. To what extent does David Harvey’s recourse to Karl Marx’s theory of capital accumulation grasp better the contradictory spatial and geographical extension of capital on a world scale?
  18. Despite reference to political economy and economics as a social science, is Marxism still treated as a “disease” that one has to be “vaccinated” and “sterilised” against?

 Previous Digest: The alter-images of the Piketty Digests 

  Next Digest: Introduction 

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