ROPE Cfp: “Ten years since Piketty and Summers rediscover of inequality and stagnation: What have we learnt?”

Ten years since Piketty and Summers rediscover of inequality and stagnation: What have we learnt?

Review of Political Economy 

Special Issue Editors
Stefano Di Bucchianico, University of Salerno
Nadia Garbellini, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Gabriel Brondino, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Piacenza

Call for papers

The year 2014 witnessed the publication of two ground-breaking contributions bringing the issues of inequality and stagnation back to the main stage. On one hand, Piketty provided the academic environment with an analysis of the historical trends in inequality on a time and geographic scale never seen before (Piketty 2014). On the other, Summers warned against the inherent tendency for advanced capitalism to be caught in underemployment and subpar growth for the foreseeable future (Summers 2014).

Piketty has enjoyed wide attention because, among other things, he was able to squeeze an incredible list of complex phenomena within a simple inequality condition. According to him, long-run inequality trends can be understood by looking at the now overtly famous r > g comparison. Not so dissimilarly, Summers offered a clear-cut picture of what the main culprit for stagnation was: the supposition for the natural rate of interest to have become negative, namely r* < 0.

The impact on the academy environment has been far-reaching, as both authors gave rise to plenty of follow-ups, comments, and discussions. For instance, Atkinson (2014) immediately seized the opportunity to imagine future developments made possible by Piketty’s contribution, while the lessons he provided have also been later on used to understand contemporary trends in advanced capitalism (Eggertsson, Robbins, and Wold 2021). Grounding on the insights offered by Summers, the issue of Secular Stagnation has been addressed in more conventional setups such as the Ramsey (Michau 2018) and the OLG model (Eggertsson, Mehrotra, and Robbins 2019).

These contributions can be also assessed within a general movement of mainstream economists who are increasingly concerned with the possibility for their framework of analysis to host in a satisfactory way elements of real-world broad concern. To mention other two notable examples that came up later, Blanchard (2018) questioned the relevance of the concept of a natural rate of unemployment, while Krugman (2018) reflected critically on the legacy of DSGE models. Further, both authors clearly believe that their contributions are here to stay, as they have been actively working to further develop and adapt them to meet additional challenges and evolving scenarios (Piketty 2021; Summers 2020).

Obviously, these attempts have also raised questions and attracted criticisms from alternative theoretical viewpoints. Among those, despite the agreement with the concerns about rising inequality and lasting stagnation, we find criticisms directed to the theoretical underpinnings of both theoretical frameworks, as well as on some of the policy prescriptions offered. For instance, we find, among others, the views of Aspromourgos (2015), Rowthorn (2014), Duménil and Lévy (2016) on Piketty, and those of Palley (2019), Di Bucchianico (2020), and Hein (2016) on Summers. Other proposals call for replacing their common mainstream framework grounded on the natural rate of interest with other concepts, such as the Pasinetti Index (Lavoie and Seccareccia 2016). At last, accounting for the tight relationship that links inequality and stagnation, especially from a political economy perspective, contributions connecting distributive issues and macroeconomic analysis are needed to address the factors stressed by Piketty and Summers jointly.

Given that now a full decade has passed since the rediscovery of these topics, the Review of Political Economy (ROPE) invites authors to send their papers to discuss and investigate the legacy of the renewed interest in these two outstanding fields of research.

Contributions touching upon the following issues (but not limited to the list) are encouraged:

  • History of economic thought – How do Piketty and Summers compare with historical predecessors who dealt with inequality and stagnation? Can we trace parallels, contrasts, and comparisons?
  • Empirical – Are Piketty’s and Summers’ insights confirmed at the empirical level? Can we now better understand whether their warnings about inequality and stagnation were well-pointed?
  • Methodological – Did Piketty and Summers provide the academic environment with new methodological perspectives? Were their contributions limited to recast available knowledge, or did they offer an entirely new vision of the issues at hand?
  • Theoretical – What did Piketty and Summers miss when setting forth their respective theoretical frameworks? What to improve? What to preserve while changing the theoretical framework?
  • Relevance – Are Piketty’s and Summers’ insights still relevant today? Were their clues superseded by later developments? What lessons will also be relevant in the years to come?

Contributions linking the aspects of inequality and stagnation are especially welcomed.

One slot of the issue will be devoted to contributions from young researchers who have recently defended their Ph.D. thesis or are about to complete it.

Important dates

October 1st, 2023: Submit a paper proposal to Special Issue Editors
October 31st, 2023: Decision on abstract
May 31st, 2024: Submission of full paper
July 31st, 2024: First decision (acceptance, revision, or rejection)
September 15th, 2024: Submission of a revised version
October 31st, 2024: Final decision
April 2025: Publication of the special issue in the Review of Political Economy

Notes for the authors

The abstract proposal must be 500 words max.
Word limit: 10.000 words (including references). Each graph and table counts as 400 words.

Papers submitted to the STOREP, EAEPE, ESHET, and FMM Conferences will be taken into consideration for the special issue. Submission to these conferences is not mandatory.

Authors sending a contribution from a recently finished, or in the process of completion, Ph.D. thesis shall point it out explicitly when delivering the proposal.