Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Streaming as part of EDFILMFEST AT HOME brought to you by EIFF and Curzon Home Cinema (CHC)

Directed by New Zealander Justin Pemberton, this is a clear and concise distillation of Thomas Piketty’s book that should fill you with a mixture of dread, hope and wonder.

He has assembled a most impressive cast of scholars and economic experts, including Piketty himself, who lay out in plain and simple fashion, but entirely without condesention, what the current situation is with wealth and capital across the world, and how it might be saved.

It’s not just a succession of talking heads, though. Graphs, charts and film clips old and new serve to illustrate the points being made, and sweep us through the hour and forty minutes running time in entertaining fashion.

The meat is, as you may expect in the interviews with those experts, all of whom present the facts of the matter without recourse to jargon and, given that there are no politicians involved, no fudge or blurry edges. Gillian Tett, US Managing Editor of the Financial Times, Kate Williams, Professor of History at Reading University, and Suresh Naidu, Professor of Economics at Colombia University are particularly lucid. After seeing this, you would jump at the chance to attend any lecture they gave.

It’s not an easy task, condensing 400 years of history into one film, but the gist of each faltering step we have taken to the perilous state is there to see. The failure of the French Revolution to replace the aristocracy with a more level and equal society (it wasn’t long before the bankers had acquired most of the wealth) to the present day diminishment of the middle class and the ever lessening opportunities for upward mobility.

The popular assumption that accumulation of capital equals social progress is debunked, but some hope is offered that a total economic collapse if we can only change the way the population thinks. Not an easy task, and a fine illustration is provided by the results of an experiment carried out using the board game Monopoly that gives considerable insight into human behaviour.

I’d like to see this on the curriculum of every school, college or seat of learning of any description throughout the world.

Jim Welsh

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