Inequality in the 21st Century
724 Prospect Place
Brooklyn, NY 11216
The economist Branko Milanovic has remarked that “reading about global inequality is nothing less than reading about the economic history of the world.” While human societies have always registered some degree of material inequality, the issue reemerged in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession as a central topic of public debate and academic study. As documented by Thomas Piketty, real wages have stagnated and most Americans have seen their standards of living decline while the share of income and wealth commanded by the top 1% has risen to levels unseen since the late-19th century. What are the factors that make inequality in the 21st century unique? And what are the stakes–not merely economic, but social, political, and cultural–of growing inequality in the U.S. and other advanced economies?
This course will take up these questions, beginning by introducing students to different methods used to conceptualize inequality—a multi-faceted phenomenon that involves not merely wealth, wages, and capital income, but also social and cultural capital. What drives the changes in wealth and income distribution are occurring nationally and globally? How is inequality felt for those at the bottom and at the top of income distribution? What is the character of the new global plutocracy and how do elites reproduce themselves? In what ways are the trends we are witnessing in advanced Western economies connected to developments in places like China, India, and Latin America? Reading selections from Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Branko Milanovic’s The Haves and the Haves Not and Global Inequality, Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality, David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism, and others, students will examine the empirical evidence of inequality in the U.S. and worldwide, and theoretical explanations of its causes. Finally, we’ll consider the link between economic growth and inequality, the prospects for social mobility, and the implications for democracy.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 13 — December 11, 2018
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Tuesday, November 20th.