FlyTitle: Inequality, revisited

A bestselling economist sets out the case for socialism

一位写下畅销书的经济学家倡导社会主义【《资本与意识形态》书评】

经济学人双语版-当代马克思 A modern Marx

THOMAS PIKETTY’S “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, first published in 2013, made the French economist a household name. Combining heavy economic theory with data wizardry and commentary on the novels of Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac, Mr Piketty argued that capitalism almost inevitably generates high and rising inequality. Many of his claims—that the stock of wealth in an economy grows faster than income, for instance, or that inequality in the West is approaching levels last seen during the Belle Époque—are now both familiar and fiercely debated.

托马斯·皮凯蒂的《21世纪资本论》于2013年首次出版,这位法国经济学家因而成为家喻户晓的人物。皮凯蒂把厚重的经济理论、精妙的数据分析,以及对简·奥斯汀和巴尔扎克的小说的评论相结合,论证资本主义几乎不可避免地会导致严重且不断加剧的不平等。他的许多论断如今已为人熟知且成为人们激辩的主题,例如,经济体内财富存量的增长快于收入的增长,或者西方国家内的不平等程度正逼近欧洲“美好年代”时的水平。

Mr Piketty’s new book is over 1,000 pages long and looks far beyond the West. Austen and Balzac turn up again—joined by “Black Panther”, a recent blockbuster film, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Americanah”. Mr Piketty says the tome is “in large part a sequel” to its predecessor, yet in an important way it is a clear change of direction. In “Capital” Mr Piketty shared Karl Marx’s goal in the work of the same name that he published in 1867: to reveal the economic logic of the capitalist mode of production. “Capital and Ideology”, by contrast, is closer to the sociological writings of Marx and his followers, especially “The German Ideology” (1845-46), which sought to explain the social and political means by which capitalists maintained power over the working classes.

皮凯蒂的新书厚达1000多页,视野远远超越了西方世界。奥斯汀和巴尔扎克再次出现,加之以近年的热门影片《黑豹》(Black Panther)和奇马曼达·南戈齐·阿迪奇(Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)的小说《美国史迹》(Americanah)。皮凯蒂说自己这本书“很大程度上是在续写”前作,但实际上这部新作发生了一种很重要的方向上的明显转变。皮凯蒂在《21世纪资本论》与卡尔·马克思在1867年发表的《资本论》的目标一致:揭示资本主义生产模式的经济逻辑。相比之下,《资本与意识形态》更接近马克思及其追随者的社会学著作,尤其是试图阐释资本家控制工人阶级所用的社会和政治手段的《德意志意识形态》(The German Ideology ,1845至1846年)。

The scope of Mr Piketty’s analysis is wider than Marx’s, however. “Every human society must justify its inequalities,” he begins. The book surveys not only capitalist societies but colonial, slave-owning and feudal ones, too. In almost all, income and wealth have been distributed highly unequally. To retain their dominant position, Mr Piketty says, elites have used “ideologies”, which he describes as “a set of a priori plausible ideas and discourses describing how society should be structured”. “Plausible” they may be, but for Mr Piketty all such ideologies are in a crucial sense illegitimate or unjust. His deconstruction of these rackets leads him to advocate a transition to a hardline version of socialism.

然而,皮凯蒂分析的范围要比马克思广。他在开篇写道:“每一个人类社会都必须为其不平等现象辩护。”该书不仅审视了资本主义社会,还探讨了殖民社会、奴隶社会和封建社会。几乎在所有这些社会里,收入和财富分配都高度不平等。皮凯蒂表示,为了维持自身的主导地位,精英阶层运用了“意识形态”手段,用他的话说就是“描述社会理想架构的一系列貌似合理的先验观点和说法”。这些意识形态也许“貌似合理”,但在皮凯蒂看来,它们在一个重要意义上都不合法或不公正。对这些骗局和不公的解构促使他主张转向一种强硬派社会主义。

Some of the people, all of the time

一部分人,一直以来

Mr Piketty spends much of the book explaining how ideological techniques have varied. In the Middle Ages church authorities said the natural order required small numbers of clergy and nobility and a mass of labourers; the lower ranks were meant to meekly accept their lot. In India the “Manusmriti”, a compendium of laws compiled in the second century BC, proposed “a social structure and rules intended to…restore order to the Hindu social and political system”. In the 18th century Western elites declared that slavery was justified because the enslaved needed moral guidance; similar arguments were thereafter used in favour of colonialism. And so on.

皮凯蒂以大量篇幅解释意识形态手段的多种多样。在中世纪,教会统治机构宣称,少量神职人员和贵族加上大量劳动者是社会的天然秩序;底层阶层注定要恭顺地接受自己的命运。印度的《摩奴法典》(Manusmriti)是一部公元前二世纪汇编的法典,其中提出“一种社会结构和规则,意在……恢复印度教社会和政治体系秩序”。在18世纪,西方精英阶层宣称奴隶制度是正当的,因为被奴役者需要道德教化。类似论调后来被用来支持殖民主义。凡此种种不一而足。

None of this analysis of elite skulduggery is very novel. For example, Theodor Adorno and other members of the Frankfurt School argued that the media turned people into capitalist drones. Michel Foucault examined how prisons, hospitals and schools shaped good capitalist subjects.

这种对精英阶层蒙蔽手段的分析并不新鲜。例如,西奥多·阿多诺(Theodor Adorno)等法兰克福学派学者就曾经指出,媒体将人们变成了资本主义的寄生虫。米歇尔·福柯(Michel Foucault)也研究过监狱、医院和学校如何塑造资本主义的顺民。

And Mr Piketty’s account of ideology is less well developed than some such predecessors’. In part this is because he flits between case studies (with strange digressions, such as an explanation of the role of vegetarianism in Hinduism). It is not clear who exactly is promulgating the ideologies he sketches, or how. Moreover, in his overly pessimistic view of history, elites are only ever self-serving. Take the repeal of the Corn Laws in Britain in the mid-1840s, an episode which Mr Piketty barely mentions. Some bigwigs wanted to preserve the privileges of the landed gentry by maintaining high tariffs on imported grain, but others genuinely wanted to reduce the cost of food for the working classes.

皮凯蒂就意识形态的论述不如上述某些前辈那么充分。一定程度上是因为他在案例研究间穿插跳跃,时不时还有不明所以的题外话,例如解释印度教中的素食主义的作用。他所描绘的意识形态究竟是谁在宣扬、怎样宣扬的,书中并没有清楚交代。而且,他对历史的回顾过分悲观,描绘出的精英阶层永远只有自私自利这一面。比如,他基本没有提及19世纪40年代中期英国废除《谷物法》这一事件。当时某些权贵想维持对进口谷物的高关税以保护地主士绅的特权,但另一些权贵则真心希望降低工人阶层的食物开支。

Nevertheless, his book has virtues that many post-Marxist critiques lack. For one thing, it is more readable. The prose is pithy and light on theory. Mr Piketty draws on an impressive range of historical statistics. In the early 1980s, he relates, income inequality in Soviet Russia was only marginally lower than it was in Europe. His numbers show how the definition of “elite” has changed over time. Just before the revolution of 1789 the French church owned almost a quarter of the country’s property; today all non-profit organisations in France own just 1%. Above all, Mr Piketty’s sweeping scholarship enhances, rather than obscures, his central argument.

但是,皮凯蒂的新书有着不少后马克思主义评论没有的优点。一方面,该书可读性更强。它文笔简洁,较少讲述理论。皮凯蒂调用了各种各样的历史统计数据,令人印象深刻。他提到,在上世纪80年代初期,前苏联民众收入不平等的程度仅略低于当时的欧洲。他列举的数字显示了“精英阶层”的定义在不同时期的演变。在1789年法国大革命之前,法国教会拥有全国近四分之一的财产;如今,法国所有非营利组织仅拥有本国财产的1%。最重要的是,皮凯蒂触角广泛的分析支撑而非掩盖了其核心论点。

It is a familiar one. In 1867 Marx said the “essential difference between…a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted”. Capitalism, in other words, was just as exploitative and immoral as slavery or feudalism—it just did a better job of covering it up. As Mr Piketty casts his eye over a millennium of global history, he reaches a strikingly similar conclusion.

他的论点并不陌生。早在1867年马克思就说过,“奴隶制社会与雇佣劳动社会……两者之间的本质区别仅在于对剩余劳动的榨取方式”。换言之,资本主义与奴隶制度或封建制度一样存在剥削且不道德,只不过掩饰得比较好而已。皮凯蒂回顾了全球千年历史,得出的结论与这惊人地相似。

The tyranny of property

财产暴政

From today’s perspective, many past societies appear obviously unjust. It now seems self-evident that colonialism was immoral, for instance, and that feudalism deprived people of agency. Many of the arguments once deployed against liberal reforms now seem blatantly self-interested. Thomas Jefferson’s views on the emancipation of slaves are a stark example: “We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

以今天的视角来看,过往许多社会显然是非正义的。比如说,殖民主义是不道德的,封建主义剥夺了人的自主权,如今这些似乎都是不证自明的。曾用以反对自由改革的许多论点现在看来都是公然的利己主义。托马斯·杰斐逊对解放奴隶的看法就是个鲜明的例子:“我们是骑虎难下,既不能扣留他,也不能安全地放他走。天平的一边是正义,另一边是自我保护。”

Mr Piketty believes that “the justifications [for inequality] given in the past turn out, if studied carefully, to be no more incoherent than those of the present.” He calls the current inequality regime “neo-proprietarian”, an ideology characterised by absolute respect for property rights and the distribution of income and wealth that results. It is a thin creed, in his view. The notion that people have “an inviolable natural right [to] strictly private property” cannot withstand analysis, since the “accumulation of wealth is always the fruit of a social process, which depends, among other things, on public infrastructures…the social division of labour, and the knowledge accumulated by humanity over centuries.” At the same time, access to fundamental goods, such as education, is so unequal that the resulting distribution of income and wealth must be illegitimate.

皮凯蒂认为,“仔细研究就会发现,过去对于(不平等)的辩解并不比现在的那些更含混矛盾。”他称当前的不平等制度为“新有产阶级社会”,这种意识形态的特征是绝对尊重财产权及由此产生的收入和财富分配。在他看来,这一信条的理据薄弱。人们拥有“绝对私有财产不可侵犯的天然权利”,这一理念经不起分析,因为“财富的积累始终是一种社会过程的结果,而社会过程取决于众多因素,如公共基础设施……社会分工,以及人类几个世纪以来积累的知识”。同时,获得基础性商品(如教育)的机会非常不平等,由此产生的收入和财富分配必然是不正当的。

This is too gloomy—as some of Mr Piketty’s own data show. Inequality has risen in most countries in recent decades, but it remains much lower than it was a century ago. The world is healthier and wealthier than ever; the author accepts the rise in life expectancy, though he begrudgingly points to “the limitations of available demographic sources”. The development of capitalism from the 18th century onwards greatly lifted average living standards. Meanwhile, considerable (if incomplete) progress has been made on racial and gender equality. But for Mr Piketty, history lurches from one inequitable regime to the next, each scarcely better than the last.

这就太过悲观了——皮凯蒂自己的一些数据也显示事情不至于此。近几十年来,大多数国家的不平等现象有所加剧,但仍远低于一个世纪前。如今整个世界比过往任何时候都更健康、更富裕。皮凯蒂承认人类预期寿命有所提高,但他心有不甘地指出“现有人口统计来源存在局限性”。自18世纪以来,资本主义的发展极大提高了人们的平均生活水平。同时在种族和性别平等方面也取得了相当大(虽然还不完全)的进步。然而在皮凯蒂看来,历史不过是从一个不平等制度转向另一个,每一个都不比上一个好多少。

经济学人双语版-当代马克思 A modern Marx

The last part of his book focuses on his alternative to “neo-proprietarianism”. He is no fan of Soviet communism, in part because he accepts that society “sometimes requires small businesses funded with private capital and employing a handful of workers”. And though he is encouraged by the willingness of politicians in the mid-20th century to confront elites, for instance by steeply raising income and inheritance taxes, he cannot bring himself to endorse 20th-century social democracy. It fell short, he thinks, not least because “progressive taxation…power-sharing in firms…democratic budgeting and public ownership were never explored as fully or systematically as they might have been.” Instead he proposes a new form of socialism.

书中最后一部分重点论述了他认为可以替代“新有产阶级主义”的社会制度。他并不崇尚苏联式共产主义,原因之一是他承认社会“有时需要由私人资本投资并雇用少量工人的小企业”。20世纪中叶,政客们愿意挺身挑战精英阶层利益,例如大幅提高所得税和遗产税,这让皮凯蒂感到鼓舞,但没能让他转而支持20世纪的社会民主。他认为这种制度还不足够,尤其是因为“累进税收……企业权力共享……民主预算及公有制从没有得到原本应有的全面或系统的运用”。作为替代,他提出了一种新型社会主义。

This system bears many of the hallmarks of a movement The Economist has called “millennial socialism”, which is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. The core idea is to “democratise” the economy, transferring control from capitalist and government elites to ordinary folk. Employees would have a decisive say in the management of their firm: think of Bernie Sanders’s plan to put workers on boards. Public services, especially education, would be vastly enhanced. Every youngster would get a cash lump sum. Mr Piketty envisages radically higher taxes on the rich, not just to raise revenue but to drastically reduce their clout. He imagines a wealth tax of up to 90% on the largest fortunes.

这一制度带有本刊称之为“千禧社会主义”(millennial socialism)运动的许多标志性特征,这股风潮在大西洋两岸都呈上升趋势。其核心思想是经济“民主化”,将控制权从资本家和政府精英手上转移给社会大众。员工能对公司管理拥有决定权:比如像美国民主党总统竞选人伯尼·桑德斯(Bernie Sanders)设想的那样让员工进入董事会。公共服务,特别是教育,会得到巨大提升。每个年轻人会一次性得到一笔现金。皮凯蒂还设想对富人大幅加税,不仅是为增加政府收入,还为大大削弱富人的社会影响力。他设想针对顶级巨富征收高达90%的财富税。

Keeping the red flag flying

让红旗继续飘扬

Such measures would unquestionably reduce income and wealth inequality, perhaps to all-time lows. But would they create better societies? After all, socialism carries its own risks and distortions. Reductions in material inequality might be offset by increases in other sorts—in access to public services, say, or in free expression and political power. Businesses run by “the workers” might be captured by trade unions. A more powerful state might become more self-serving. Would such societies be truly just and their inhabitants truly free? In the end, Marx came to worry about this complication. Not Mr Piketty.

这些措施无疑会减轻收入与财富不平等的程度,可能会降至历史最低点。但它们能造就更进步的社会吗?毕竟,社会主义自有其风险和扭曲。物质不平等减轻了,但其他方面的不平等可能加剧,比如公共服务,或者言论自由和政治权力,最终结果可能是相互抵消。由“劳动者”经营的企业可能会被工会占领。更强大的政府可能会变得更加为自身利益服务。这样的社会真的能做到正义吗?其民众真的能拥有自由吗?最终,马克思对于这些并发症心怀忧虑。皮凯蒂却没有。

Then there is the economy itself. Many thinkers on both left and right agree with him that inequality is too high, and that, even in mature democracies, income and wealth are often accumulated unfairly. Unlike him, most resist the idea of a socialist overhaul, in part because they fear it would leave everyone, including the poorest, worse off. You don’t have to be a plutocrat to fret that sky-high wealth taxes would play havoc with incentives, reducing investment and entrepreneurship.

然后还要考虑经济本身。无论左派还是右派,许多思想家都同意皮凯蒂认为不平等程度过高的观点,以及即使在成熟的民主国家,收入和财富也往往是通过不公平的手段积聚的。但不同于皮凯蒂,大多数思想家反对进行社会主义大改革的想法,部分是因为他们担心这会让所有人都过得更不好,包括最贫困的民众。一个人就算不是富豪财阀,也一样会担心超高的财产税将大大破坏激励机制,重挫投资和创业精神。

Mr Piketty waves away such concerns in a few paragraphs, an oddly brief discussion given the book’s length, not to mention his profession. He provides some graphs which purport to show that high tax rates are actually good for economic growth. “Bill, Jeff and Mark”, he reckons, “would no doubt have lived their lives in exactly the same way” in the face of confiscatory taxes (never mind that they would lose control of Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook). He evinces a breezy disregard for orthodox economics, asserting, for example, that “there is no obvious reason why wealth redistribution should be limited to property in land”. That ignores the widespread opinion that, since its supply is fixed, land may be treated differently to other assets.

皮凯蒂只用了几段话将这些担忧一笔带过。相比全书的篇幅,这一部分短得出奇,何况他还是位经济学家。他摆出一些图表,想要表明高税率实际上有利经济增长。他认为,面对“充公税”,“盖茨、贝佐斯、扎克伯格的日子肯定还和以前一模一样”(不用去管他们会分别失去对微软、亚马逊、Facebook的控制权)。皮凯蒂表现出对正统经济学的一种轻率的漠视,例如,他断言“没有明显理由认为财富的重新分配应仅限于土地财产”。这忽视了一个普遍的理念:土地供应量是固定的,因此对土地财产的处理可能要有别于其他资产。

This book may well become as famous as “Capital”. But it is hard not to conclude that, deep down, Mr Piketty believes the worth of a society is measured by its Gini coefficient alone. For all his flair and learning, that is a mistaken ideology. ■

这本书很可能会变得和《资本论》一样有名,但难免会让人觉得皮凯蒂从心底里认为一个社会的价值只是由基尼系数衡量的。纵有一身才学,这可是一种错误的意识形态。