If Thomas Picketty’s book put the study of inequality into a thoroughly grounded historical context, then Tony Atkinson is that history. He has been attempting to assert that inequality and income distribution should be a central concern of mainstream economics since the 1960s, and has been a major influence on Picketty.
When he started writing this was a matter of deepening the state policy that was, to a degree, acting a countervailing force to the inequalities that an unmitigated market would have created. Since the end of the 1970s he has been arguing against the neo-liberal orthodoxies that have dominated both economic theory and government policy.
It would be good to produce a fully grounded historical account of this process, and there are elements of this in Atkinson’s book. But in lieu of that, here is a critical review of Atkinson’s book.