Unveiling Inequality

Unveiling Inequality: A World-Historical Perspective

Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz
Timothy Patrick Moran
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Unveiling Inequality
    Book Description:

    Despite the vast expansion of global markets during the last half of the twentieth century, social science still most often examines and measures inequality and social mobility within individual nations rather than across national boundaries. Every country has both rich and poor populations making demands—via institutions, political processes, or even conflict—on how their resources will be distributed. But shifts in inequality in one country can precipitate accompanying shifts in another. Unveiling Inequality authors Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz and Timothy Patrick Moran make the case that within-country analyses alone have not adequately illuminated our understanding of global stratification. The authors present a comprehensive new framework that moves beyond national boundaries to analyze economic inequality and social mobility on a global scale and from a historical perspective. Assembling data on patterns of inequality in more than ninety-six countries, Unveiling Inequality reframes the relationship between globalization and inequality within and between nations. Korzeniewicz and Moran first examine two different historical patterns—“High Inequality Equilibrium” and “Low Inequality Equilibrium”—and question whether increasing equality, democracy, and economic growth are inextricably linked as nations modernize. Inequality is best understood as a complex set of relational interactions that unfold globally over time. So the same institutional mechanisms that have historically reduced inequality within some nations have also often accentuated the selective exclusion of populations from poorer countries and enhanced high inequality equilibrium between nations. National identity and citizenship are the fundamental contemporary bases of stratification and inequality in the world, the authors conclude. Drawing on these insights, the book recasts patterns of mobility within global stratification. The authors detail the three principal paths available for social mobility from a global perspective: within-country mobility, mobility through national economic growth, and mobility through migration. Korzeniewicz and Moran provide strong evidence that the nation where we are born is the single greatest deter-mining factor of how we will live. Too much sociological literature on inequality focuses on the plight of “have-nots” in wealthy nations who have more opportunity for social mobility than even the average individual in nations perennially at the bottom of the wealth distribution scale. Unveiling Inequality represents a major paradigm shift in thinking about social inequality and a clarion call to reorient discussions of economic justice in world-historical global terms.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-658-7
    Subjects: Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    Inequality and stratification have been conceived primarily as processes that occur within national boundaries. Such a focus has produced a number of influential overarching narratives. One such narrative is that the relative well-being of people is shaped most fundamentally by the capacity of home-grown institutions to promote economic growth and equity. Another is that people over time have become more stratified by their relative achievement and effort rather than by the characteristics with which they were born. A third one, a corollary of the other two, is that upward social mobility is fundamentally the outcome of the adoption of better...

  6. Chapter 1 Reinterpreting Within-Country Inequality
    (pp. 1-22)

    The modern study of social inequality and mobility has been built upon the fundamental premise that the nation-state constitutes the key unit of analysis. For much of the twentieth century, somewhat separate literatures on social inequality and on social mobility jointly constructed this fundamental premise, arguing that nations undergo a single overarching transition (shaping equally inequality and mobility) as they move from tradition to modernity. Thus, the twentieth-century social sciences literature focused on theorizing inequality and mobility in terms of a single, overarching process of change.

    Over the last twenty years, on the other hand, the literatures on social mobility...

  7. Chapter 2 High and Low Inequality as Historical Equilibria
    (pp. 23-42)

    This chapter argues that the areas identified in the previous chapter as today having low and high levels of inequality are for the most part the very same areas that had relatively low and high levels of inequality during or even before the eighteenth century. This suggests both that contemporary patterns of inequality have an early historical origin and that they might be subject to path-dependencies, a possibility generally overlooked by the various twentieth-century approaches that emphasized a single universal transition from tradition to modernity.

    Considerable evidence for the early historical origins of current patterns of inequality, and for subsequent...

  8. Chapter 3 High Inequality, Low Inequality, and Creative Destruction
    (pp. 43-59)

    Having established the importance of thinking about patterns of within-country inequality in terms of high-inequality equilibria (HIE) and low-inequality equilibria (LIE), as well as the need to understand the considerable historical persistence of these equilibria, this chapter turns to expanding on the relationship between HIE and LIE. For, while much of the new institutional literature approaches situations of high and low inequality as representing independent institutional paths, our effort to rethink historical inequality calls for reconceptualizing HIE and LIE as eminently relational and interacting over time

    The new institutional literature on the legacy of inequality portrays “extractive institutions” as associated...

  9. Chapter 4 The Distribution of Income Between Nations as a High-Inequality Equilibrium
    (pp. 60-88)

    Drawing on our discussion of the within-country patterns of high- and low-inequality equilibria (HIE and LIE) developed in the previous chapters, we now turn to patterns of between-country inequality. In this chapter, we argue that between-country inequality can be understood best as involving over the last two centuries a high-inequality equilibrium (HIE). The overall level of inequality between nations—as expressed by a Gini coefficient that measures the dispersion of gross national income (GNI) between the nations of the world—has been both extremely high and historically persistent. Once again, as in the previous chapter, we draw on Schumpeter’s notion...

  10. Chapter 5 Global Stratification and the Three Paths of Social Mobility
    (pp. 89-112)

    Throughout this book, we have emphasized the importance of taking the world as a whole as the proper unit of analysis in order to understand inequality. Such a step allows us to discern that patterns of inequality today entail a complex global interplay of trends in between-and within-country inequality, particularly through the interaction of the institutional arrangements characteristic of high-inequality and low-inequality equilibria (HIE and LIE) through the last two centuries. Understanding inequality as a global historical phenomenon allows us to render visible what is otherwise veiled by mainstream social science: since the nineteenth century, the nation-state itself has come...

  11. Chapter 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 113-122)

    Drawing on what has become virtually a commonsense account of the historical trajectory of today’s wealthy countries, the social sciences have usually portrayed development as the attainment of a virtuous combination of economic growth, equity, and democracy, all of which come to reinforce one another over time. Countries that are poor today have not yet undertaken the institutional transformations needed to embark on the righteous path, but eventually they will—all they need is the political will to make the hard choices required to embrace opportunity.

    In this book, we have advanced an alternative account of inequality. Inequality needs to...

  12. Statistical Appendix
    (pp. 123-132)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 133-164)
  14. References
    (pp. 165-184)
  15. Index
    (pp. 185-192)