‘Piketty is a genius, but … ’: an analysis of journalistic delegitimation of Thomas Piketty’s economic policy proposals

Maria Rieder, Hendrik Theine

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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The continued rise of socio-economic inequality over the past decades with its connected political outcomes such as the Brexit vote in the UK, and the election of Donald Trump are currently a matter of intense debate both in academia and in journalism. One significant sign of the heightened interest was the surprise popularity of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the twenty-first Century. The book reached the top of the bestseller lists and was described as a ‘media sensation’, with Piketty himself as a ‘rock star economist’. This paper, drawing from a major international and cross-disciplinary study, investigates the print media treatment in four European countries of economic policy proposals presented in Capital. Applying social semiotic and critical discourse analysis, we specifically focus on articles which are in disagreement with these proposals and identify five categories of counterarguments used against Piketty: authorisation, moralisation, rationalisation, portrayal of victimhood and inevitability. Providing textual and linguistic examples we demonstrate how the use of linguistic resources normalises and conventionalises ideology-laden discourses of economic means (taxation) and effects, reinforcing particular views of social relations and class as common sense and therewith upholding and perpetuating power relations and inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248 - 263
JournalCritical Discourse Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Updated version

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502047 Economic theory
  • 502046 Economic policy
  • 508009 Media research
  • 605005 Audience research

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