Carsten Jensen and Kees van Kersbergen's new book The Politics of Inequality is out now on Palgrave Macmillan.
The topic of inequality is a hot-button one because it combines normative feelings with a core of material self-interest. Creating a more equal society entails that the well-off need to give up some of their money so that others can have more than they originally had. Underpinning the normative arguments often heard in public debate are less lofty motives. Those who benefit materially from low inequality also tend to believe that equality is morally just, whereas those who have to pay for the implied redistribution take the opposite view. This underscores just how politically sensitive and potentially divisive the topic is.
The core argument of the book is that the question of how much inequality there should be in a country is fundamentally a political one. Politics is everywhere when thinking about inequality. Given that inequality is one of the most important issues today, everyone with an interest in society, no matter what their ideological orientation is, ought to pay attention to it. We show in this book that economic inequality is a multifaceted phenomenon. It affects, and is affected by, everything from the growth of the economy, to the structure of the welfare state, to the involvement of citizens in the democratic process. In sum, if you care about any of these things, you should care about the politics of inequality too.