In a relatively short amount of time, Thomas Piketty's book, "Capital in The 21st Century", has generated a considerable amount of discussion in academic circles as well as in the general press. Like any research with public policy implication, this debate operates on three distinct levels. At the factual level, actors discuss the accuracy and relevance of the data presented. At the interpretative level, actors discuss the meaning of the facts in a broader context, the hypotheses, "laws", and predictions that those facts entail. At the normative level, actors discuss the policy recommendations that one ought to draw from these particular interpretations of those particular facts. In this quantitative study, I analyze discussions of Piketty's book at those different levels in relation to the social positions of the actors. Certain aspects of an academic's life course that relate to scientific prestige and social recognition are predictors of agreement or disagreement with Thomas Piketty at different levels of the debate. Agreement with Thomas Piketty is related to media presence, academic responsibilities and scholarly influence. Similarly to other heavily polarized and political issues in scientific research, top schools tend to produce more homogeneous conclusions. We will explore those aspects, compare them to other fields and try to make sense of the patterns uncovered.
About Sacha Raoult
Sacha Raoult is an assistant professor (maître de conférences-HDR) in Law and Criminology at the University of Aix-Marseille (Aix-en-Provence, France) and a Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the University of Chicago (The College, Social Sciences Division).
His current scholarly focus is the relation between the social position of academics and their research conclusions around diverse questions related to public policy. His first publication on this subject was on death penalty deterrence studies ("Des Méthodes et des Hommes. La production sociale du savoir sur l'efficacité de la peine de mort", Déviance et Société, forthcoming), and he now works on the comparison of several crime and inequality research questions ("Research Conclusions and Social Position of Academics in Public Policy. A Quantitative Study.").