I could have called this article “Piketty. Back”. In fact, Thomas Piketty caused a sensation 8 years ago by publishing his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (1), where, in the past two centuries, he studied the dynamics of the distribution of income and wealth in developed countries. . He returns to the table with a book, like the first book, that should get him talking for himself. This book is titled “Political divisions and social inequality“(2) It raises a fundamental question: Why is the left no longer attracting the popular classes?” To answer, an international team of about 50 researchers proposed the study of electoral behavior according to income, inheritance, educational level, ethnicity, and religion. This book covers a long period (1948-2020) and no less than Fifty democracies.
The main lesson is that from the 1980s onwards, the popular classes have moved away from the left. Until 1980, the popular vote went to the social democratic parties and the “bourgeois” vote was for the conservative parties. This is regardless of the scale used to define “popularity”: education level, income, wealth. The authors note this development in all countries, despite very different political histories. Then there was an adjustment between the left parties and the popular vote. One can talk about One Swelling Leave. Then, gradually, between 1980 and 2000, new divisions arose, within both socially preferred groups and the working classes. At the top of the scale, those who earned more continued voting on the right, while those with more education went to the left. This is what the authors call “Brahmin Left” (3); We also talk about left or ceremonial left caviar.
Piketty’s new book is known for the wealth of data it collects. He explains that this development from the classic left-right split to the abandonment of left-wing parties by most left-wing groups can be seen in 50 countries ranging from France to Argentina to Taiwan. Like any work of this kind, it suffers from the old saying “He who wants something will achieve nothingI read the chapter on Belgium a little more carefully and found it very approximate. But it is a must in this type of exercise.
The mystery remains: while the left-wing parties remain more redistributed than the conservative parties, why are they no longer appealing to the popular classes? For Piketty, who was interviewed in L’Obs (4), these parties bear a great responsibility in this development. In fact, they are less redistributed than they claim. In addition, they have come a long way in reforms aimed at liberalizing financial markets and liberalizing the movement of capital without prior financial coordination. In the old continent, they committed themselves to the single market and the single currency, without taking into account the increase in inequality in Europe that focused solely on the exchange of capital and goods.
How can the left regain the popular vote? We must bring the topic of redistribution, equality and property back into the debate. We cannot transform the economic system, whether to solve climatic problems, inequality or discrimination, without addressing the essence of the issue, the problem of the spread of ownership and the problem of distributing power among the concerned parties in the company.
Can we agree with this analysis and what next? How do we achieve this transformation? Is it necessary to wait for a new generation of activists and leaders? Right now, the left suffers from a terrible deficit of ideas and people capable of regaining the popular vote that it lost in recent years in favor of national identity parties or abstaining from voting.
It seems to me that one of the reasons for the disappointment of the left-wing parties is their preference for income redistribution at the expense of social mobility. His fatal mistake was his neglect of the proper functioning of the social elevator. Research shows this: a lack of perspectives and a sense of social backsliding explain why part of the popular classes throw themselves into the arms of populist parties.
Pierre Bestio, Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Liège, Belgium
(1). Thomas Piketty Capital in ste century Le Sewell, Paris, 2013.
(2) Gethin, Amore, Clara Martinez Toledano and Thomas Piketty (under supervision), Political divisions and social inequality. A study of fifty democracies (1948-2020), Le Seuil, Paris, 2021. (The data in this book are available online: https: //wpid.world/fr/.)
(3). In the Indian caste system, the Brahmins constitute the intellectual class.
(4) L’Obs, 3deabrilde2021https: // wwwnouvelobscom / idees / 20210403OBS42268 / pourquoi-la-gauche-ne-seduit-elle-plus-les-classes-populaires-l-analysis-By-thomas-pikettyhtml[4)L’Obs،3deabrilde2021https://wwwnouvelobscom/idees/20210403OBS42268/pourquoi-la-gauche-ne-seduit-elle-plus-les-classes-populaires-l-تحليل-By-thomas-pikettyhtml