Capital and Ideology: Chapter 13

In chapter 13 Piketty focuses on our current inequality regime he calls hypercapitalism and neo-proprietarian. According to Piketty, the neo-liberal movement to deregulate the financial markets, privatize public/government services and lower taxes on the wealthy directly led to this new inequality regime. Neo-proprietarian describes the resurgence of the importance of private property (did it ever leave?) and the commodification of knowledge and information. Hypercapitalism refers to the new billionaire class and the reverence we have for them as wealth creators.

In this inequality regime proprietary property becomes private property. Piketty claims that this commodification of knowledge is illegitimate because much of it was created on the foundation of government funded research and collective knowledge. Tied into this is the current myth of meritocracy where these billionaires are rich precisely because of legal and tax laws that sanction this commodification. The wealthy property owners essentially control the government through funding campaigns and owning the media makes any sort of democracy impossible. Another part of the current inequality regime is the obfuscation of financial data. Obscured financial data is always skewed to favor the rich.

I don’t see Piketty bringing up anything new here. Piketty sees the property regime as the main cause of inequality in our current state. I assume how this occurs will be the focus of the next part of the book. Ironically, I think Piketty has already disproven this argument precisely by the information he has laid out. The property regime will never be changed because they have all the power to control the political system. I think Piketty, up to this point, has done a good job at describing the history of inequality up to the present. So what? Piketty has hinted at his answer; inequality will be eliminated through more access to education and the political process. Piketty hasn’t shown how the history of inequality regimes have ‘evolved’. He takes inequality and capitalism as a given.

The force of historical change has been class struggle. Inequality is part of these struggles, but not the last word. Relationships between all people are determined by the dominant ideology. In a capitalist society the capitalist owns the modes of production and the workers forced to work. Capitalism IS the cause of inequality. More education, better policies etc. will not be an ultimate solution. Inequality will only be destroyed by destroying the system that it is built on. This point eludes Piketty. This may be reductionist, but up to this point Piketty’s book has just been another report on how shitty things are in our world. We hear about this nightmare everyday. At the outset Piketty dismisses Marxism and maintains the old tropes of the failure of communism. His solution was determined before his research project, even though he claimed the opposite. Capitalism is pure evil genius. We can have so much detailed information about how miserable most of earth’s population is and even know why, but we literally cannot see the cause. So we’ll see where Piketty goes after his fairly exhaustive history of inequality. I think we all have a pretty good idea where. Thoughts