“The Political Economy of Private Law: Comment on ‘The Code of Capital'”, Matthias Thiemann (Sciences Po, France)

Katharina Pistor’s book “The code of capital – how the law creates wealth and inequality” is an original and insightful intervention in the quest to understand both the rising inequality of the last 40 years, as well as the inner dynamics of capitalism, a social formation that has ruled in western societies for about 200 years now. Pistor shares many of the convictions of the publications in the journal Accounting, Economics and Law, such as the dangers to democracy inherent in the corporate form and that shareholders do not own corporations, but just their shares, it is only appropriate to discuss and present it to the wider audience of the journal, pointing to its fundamental insights and potential for follow-up research. The title of the book and its set-up evoke both Luhmann’s system theory with its penchant for binary code as well as Marx’s capital. Combining the coding of social systems and their relentless dynamic in innovating and generating new forms by recursively referring to established elements with Marx’s focus on the structuring effects capital has on society is making this a very inspiring book, which at the same time evokes many follow-up questions. 

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