Explaining quiescence to inequality

In: Uncategorized

30 Sep 2007

Researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex have produced an interesting but ultimately limited working paper (PDF) on inequality in Britain. Its focus is on the widespread acceptance of inequalities. It discusses theories, such as those of WG Runciman in the 1960s, that argue people are most interested in comparisons with those closer to them. But it concludes that rising affluence is the key factor behind the culture of contentment.

What such studies miss, based as they are on opinion poll data, is the bigger picture. A key determinant of perceptions of inequality is the possibility people see of transforming society. The idea that there is no alternative to the market has become mainstream for political reasons rather than simply as a result of economics.

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