As Piketty stresses, “the distribution question... deserves to be studied in a systematic and methodical fashion.” This stress on evaluating the significance of data leads him to focus on the central evaluative questions, and look in turn at the acceptability, relevance, and adequacy of existing justifications for the unequal distribution of wealth. In doing so, Piketty applies his understanding of the data to answering the deeply important question of what political structures and what policies are necessary to move us towards a more equal society.
Piketty’s evaluation of the data supports his argument that inequality cannot be depended on to reduce over time: indeed, without government intervention, it is highly likely to increase. In addition, he evaluates international data to argue that poor countries do not necessarily become less poor as a result of foreign investment. This strong emphasis on the interrogation of data, rather than building mathematical models that are divorced from data, is a defining feature of Piketty’s work.
Neva Goodwin is Co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.
Bountiful resources, a mass market, and the industrial revolution gave entrepreneurs broad scope. In Europe, the state and the church kept private organizations small and required consideration of the public good. In America, the courts and business-steeped legislators removed regulatory constraints over the century, centralizing industry and privatizing the railroads. Despite resistance, the corporate form became the model for the next century. Bureaucratic structure spread to government and the nonprofits. Writing in the tradition of Max Weber, Perrow concludes that the driving force of our history is not technology, politics, or culture, but large, bureaucratic organizations.
Perrow, the author of award-winning books on organizations, employs his witty, trenchant, and graceful style here to maximum effect. Colorful vignettes abound: today's headlines echo past battles for unchecked organizational freedom; socially responsible alternatives that were tried are explored along with the historical contingencies that sent us down one road rather than another. No other book takes the role of organizations in America's development as seriously. The resultant insights presage a new historical genre.
This book takes stock of some of the enduring theoretical and empirical contributions of a world-system perspective, and identifies promising directions for future inquiry and discussion. Some chapters reassess the scope and methodologies of world-system analysis around several key problems (e.g., the spatial and temporal boundaries of global commodity chains, the construction and challenge of various dimensions of social inequality, systemic and antisystemic social movements). Others take stock of areas in which world-systems are promoting methodological innovation and/or generating useful global data, and identify questions that demand additional methodological and empirical attention for future research.
In different ways, this book help us to critically reconsider some of the enduring legacies within a world-system perspective (such as Karl Polanyi’s concept of the “double movement,” or the distinction drawn by Giovanni Arrighi or Immanuel Wallerstein between systemic and antisystemic movements). As argued by many of the authors in this book, a world-historical approach calls for greater sensitivity to the manifold ways in which conceptual boundaries change over time and space. Taking seriously the issue of unit of analysis, this book explores critically productive ways for better understanding global patterns of continuity and change.