Piketty and the Gilded Age

Monica Prasad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


After Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, comparing our era to the Gilded Age is no longer just a metaphor: Piketty argues that we never actually left the Gilded Age. The mid-twentieth-century period of lower inequality was a massive and perhaps unrepeatable exception to what Piketty sees as the natural tendencies toward inequality inherent in capitalist societies. But comparing our current period of relentless cuts in taxes and rising inequality to the Gilded Age shows why our period cannot be a repeat of the Gilded Age: The Gilded Age itself led to so many transformations to capitalism that inequality no longer leads to the political outrage that could anchor a broad-based progressive movement. The Gilded Age led to policies that made capitalism bearable, and that is precisely what is leading now to a situation in which Americans identify their success with the free market, and resist policies to lower inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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