‘We need permanent revolution’: how Thomas Piketty became 2014’s most influential thinker

Owen Jones in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_931 Dec. 27 22.08For a man with the unlikely description of “rock-star economist”, there is nothing rock’n’roll about Thomas Piketty’s cramped, book-lined office in a nondescript Parisian office block. By his feet are scattered various foreign translations of his publishing sensation, Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Greek, German, Japanese, and so on. There are 20 foreign editions already published, he tells me with evident pride, and another 37 to come. It must be rather surreal, I suggest: one doesn’t normally expect a French economist to become a global superstar. “Is there something particular with being French, or economists in general?” he jokes in a thick Parisian accent, effecting a faux wounded Gallic pride.

Piketty’s book is surely the most influential published by an economist in a generation, infuriating the right as much as it delighted an intellectually starved left. Using a mass of data, the book sought to expose why modern capitalism is an engine of exploding inequality: the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate at which the economy grows, he argues, and wealth is becoming ever more concentrated at the top of society.

More explosively, he proposes a global wealth tax as a check on this process, even though he has conceded this is “utopian”. He has been feted by political leaders across the western world – Ed Miliband among them – and beyond. I ask the boyish 43-year-old if his life has been thrown upside down. “Not so much. Sure, it was much more successful than I could expect – it was a gradual process, I had time to get accustomed … it’s not like a huge shock from complete anonymity to complete stardom. I’m still a little star!”

More here.