Mark Harvey asks: what are the processes that generate societal wealth inequalities, and how are these formed, socially, politically, legally and historically?
The lecture will give an overview of the main issues addressed in the book Inequality and Democratic Egalitarianism (Manchester University Press, 2018) which Mark harvey co-authored with Norman Geras. Proceeding from a critique of Marx, the authors retain the idea that labour, in all its varieties and modalities (market, non-market, domestic) is the creative source of societal wealth.
First, there is exploitation in historically varied combinations of relations of production and exchange, not just in production (as in Marx) or market exchanges (Stiglitz) or through inheritance (Piketty). Double-sided exploitation of people as both consumers and workers pivots on payments for labour as the means of purchasing goods. Relations of production and market exchange are characterised by linked asymmetries of economic power, legitimated by law and fiscal regimes, profoundly gendered and racialised. Second, capitalist political economies are multi-modal, and so too are its intersecting public-market inequalities, involving rights to public goods such as education, as much as to market goods. Finally, the evolving socio-political-economies of capitalism are viewed as historically open, hybridising, and heterogeneous. In this perspective, the development of industrial capitalism in the UK was a distinctive combination of slavery in its own colonies and the US Deep South, and ‘free’ wage labour in the metropolis, emerging slowly from domestic regimes of coercion. The industrial revolution drove not only the growth of wage labour but also a vast capitalist expansion of slavery – and its subsequent replacement by other forms of servitude. The legacies of those inequalities persist to this day.
Mark Harvey is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, and Honorary Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester and the Sustainable Consumption Institute. He has developed a comparative and historical approach to economic sociology across many fields, undertaking primary research in Europe, Latin America, China, India and the USA. Building on the later writings of Karl Polanyi, his work explores the rise of mass production for mass consumption, the conflict between marketised and public knowledge in the genomics revolution, and the equally turbulent histories of that most essential good for human life, drinking water. Most recently, his research investigates how differing political economies generate climate change in contrasting ways, and the political challenges that arise as a consequence. In the midst of his academic career, he spent 17 years as a building labourer and shop steward in London. His work on labour markets reflects both academic and life-experience dimensions of knowledge.
Paul Segal is a Senior Lecturer in Economics, who has written extensively on global inequality and poverty, having pioneered the use of the new top incomes data in analysing the global distribution of income. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute, where he also contributes to the Atlantic Fellows Programme.
The International Inequalities Institute at LSE (@LSEInequalities) brings together experts from many LSE departments and centres to lead critical and cutting edge research to understand why inequalities are escalating in numerous arenas across the world, and to develop critical tools to address these challenges.
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