The nine stages, by Robert Shrimsley. h/t Michael James.
Everybody has been talking about this important book because they feel they have to
Concern is growing that much of the western world is heading into a “Piketty bubble” – a social and economic phenomenon that arises when everyone who considers themselves to be anybody feels the need to talk about a new book by French economist Thomas Piketty.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which argues that modern capitalism is entrenching inequality, was written a year ago in an obscure European dialect. But it is now being hailed as a masterpiece after it was discovered by a US publisher and translated into American.
Unlike the five phases in Hyman Minsky’s classic bubble theory, a Piketty bubble boasts nine stages.
The page is gated, so this is an abbreviated account.
Stage one – buy-in. Anyone who believes they are part of the “big conversation” has to talk about Prof Piketty’s views.
Stage two – escape velocity. A critical mass of enthusiasm sees stock in Piketty rise faster than Bitcoin… Bluffers’ guides spring up on the internet, including information on how to pronounce his name.
Stage three – backlash. It is revealed that he is François Hollande’s favourite economist.
Stage four – counter-offensive. Prof Piketty’s supporters fight back pointing out that most of his critics have not read his book.
Stage five – rearguard. Citics reply that most supporters haven’t read it either
Stage six – boredom.
Stage seven – disassociation. Even supporters begin to be embarrassed to refer to him.
Stage eight – denial. Members of the thinking classes now feel it is chic to admit that they never read the book and Picketty’s is picked up by Russell Brand, a pop star who likes to make fatuous comments on public affairs.
Stage nine – relocation. People move Prof Piketty’s book from the living room to the lavatory, where it sits on a shelf between Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History.
Prof Piketty, meanwhile, faces complaints that as wealth accrues disproportionately to star writers, his triumph is increasing inequality among economic authors. This view is boosted by the success of his next book, a jaunty work of behavioural economics called “peut-etre”.
There is a possible much later stage 10 – rediscovery. A new crisis promotes a revival in which people return to the book and note that Prof Piketty “had some interesting things to say on this subject”.