French economist Thomas Piketty is distancing himself from Karl Marx, the 19th century economist many compare him to. In an interview with The New Republic published Monday, Piketty said that Marx's multi-volume opus, Das Kapital, was not actually "very influential." He even said he's never made it through the book.
“I never managed really to read it," Piketty told TNR. "I mean I don’t know if you’ve tried to read it. Have you tried?”
Piketty and his new 700-page book, Capital in the 21st Century, have been compared to Marx by everyone from Rush Limbaugh to writers at The Nation and The Economist. Primarily, people have pointed to Piketty's argument that capitalism inherently benefits the rich more than it does the poor, a claim that critics say holds some similarities to Marx's argument regarding the bourgeoisie and proletariat.
Of course unlike Marx, Piketty is no way arguing for communism or the destruction of personal property. He just wants a global wealth tax.
Piketty also said during the interview that some of his fellow economists are overstating their genius, especially those on our side of the pond.
"Economists tend to think they are much, much smarter than historians, than everybody," Piketty said in the interview. "And this is a bit too much because at the end of the day, we don’t know very much in economics."
Piketty argues that American "economists ... look down at other fields," failing to grasp important lessons from history or sociology.
The French economist came to the U.S. for a brief teaching stint at MIT after receiving his PhD but found himself disappointed by the experience. He said he wouldn't have been equipped to write his book if he'd stayed longer, since his approach wouldn't have been as "modest and pragmatic."