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Inequality, Sustainability and Piketty’s Capital


  • Nuno Ornelas Martins

    () (Centro de Estudos em Gestão e Economia da Universidade Católica Portuguesa)


In the present article I address the implications of Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century for our understanding of inequality and sustainability. I argue that although Piketty’s contribution is a significant one which has the potential to lead economic analysis in a more fruitful direction, its potential is constrained by its reliance on marginalist theory. The difficulties in addressing adequately the themes of inequality and sustainability spring from the assumptions employed in marginalist theory, which have been proven inconsistent in several debates throughout the history of economic thought. Once the constraints posed by marginalist theory are removed from Piketty’s contribution, its potential becomes much greater when addressing inequality, and has also important implications for such topics as sustainability, justice, and the environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Nuno Ornelas Martins, 2014. "Inequality, Sustainability and Piketty’s Capital," Working Papers de Economia (Economics Working Papers) 05, Católica Porto Business School, Universidade Católica Portuguesa.
  • Handle: RePEc:cap:wpaper:052014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harcourt,G. C., 1972. "Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521096720, March.
    2. Nuno Martins, 2011. "Can neuroscience inform economics? Rationality, emotions and preference formation," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 251-267.
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    More about this item


    Inequality; Sustainability; Cambridge Controversies; Capitalism;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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