Capital and Ideology

Over the last decade, Thomas Piketty has reinvigorated the field of inequality research. His second major book, “Capital and Ideology”, will be the main focus of this course. In his work he presents a comprehensive collection of historic income and wealth distribution data for various countries. But Piketty does not merely want to summarize; he does not write economic history books. He points out that the level of economic and social inequality deemed acceptable in a society depends on the dominant ideological paradigms. In particular, Piketty wants to show that the ideological belief that unlimited private property rights lead to general prosperity is not supported by his data. With the recurring phrase “It could have been different!” Piketty argues against any notions of historical determinism and economic necessity. Following his thesis, it is imperative to debunk fallacious ideologies and think of alternatives.

This course will mainly be held as a reading group (Lesekreis). Selected passages of “Capital and Ideology” will have to be read independently to allow for a broad discussion. The open discussion will be supplemented by short presentations of students and a few talks by external lecturers. We are convinced that discussions work best if students are physically present, however, we may make additional use of online-learning-tools, depending on the number of participants. If it is technically feasible, the discussion will be streamed but we cannot guarantee that online participation will be possible.