19 votes

I've been trying to learn more about inequality. How should I go about it in a proper, structured way?

This is my 2019 project, to gain some understanding of the subjects of income and wealth inequality. I've prepared a reading list but was just wondering if there is a proper way to go about it. I'm from a third world country and didn't go to college, if that's of any help.

15 comments

  1. [4]
    pleure Link
    The first thing is to recognize that there are not, in issues of economics and society, objectively correct answers. The best you can do is identify what your basic principles are and then use...

    The first thing is to recognize that there are not, in issues of economics and society, objectively correct answers. The best you can do is identify what your basic principles are and then use them as a guide to find thinkers and arguments that you find compelling.

    I'll give a leftist answer and say that you should read Marx. His analysis of capitalism (and with it inequality) is, imo, still incredibly spot-on even if "scientific socialism" has fallen out of favor. I think everyone could do from reading some Marx, even neoliberal poster child The Economist agrees with me. Don't slog through Capital though, read the shorter works and excerpts. The Hackett Selected Writings is good if you can get a hold of it.

    11 votes
    1. daft Link Parent
      Thanks for the help.

      Thanks for the help.

      1 vote
    2. hereticalgorithm (edited ) Link Parent
      Seconding the recommendation, but any complete reading of Marx has to include his practice. The scientific socialist program was the fundamental objective of his philosophy - "Philosophers have...

      Seconding the recommendation, but any complete reading of Marx has to include his practice. The scientific socialist program was the fundamental objective of his philosophy - "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.".

      This does not mean agreeing with every single particular demand - for instance, the 10 points in the Communist Manifesto are specific to the conditions of Europe in 1848 as understood by the Communist League. Instead, the heart of Marx's work is the process of developing that program as a necessary product of his economic analysis (and going further back, his philosophical critique):

      Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.

      As for shorter works, what I've linked to are good places to start - this reading list makes good reccomendations as well.

      1 vote
    3. pasabagi Link Parent
      Absolutely seconded. Even if you go on to absolutely reject everything Marx said, he's by far the most influential writer in this discussion, even amongst people who despise him and his ideas....

      Absolutely seconded. Even if you go on to absolutely reject everything Marx said, he's by far the most influential writer in this discussion, even amongst people who despise him and his ideas. It's far better to read them first hand than to read about them through the work of others, where they are misunderstood, purposefully misrepresented, partially presented, and so on.

  2. [2]
    nacho Link
    I can't recommend Atkinson's Inequality: What Can Be Done? enough. That being said, if you were to only read one full-length book on inequality, Scheidel's The Great Leveler: Violence and the...

    I can't recommend Atkinson's Inequality: What Can Be Done? enough.


    That being said, if you were to only read one full-length book on inequality, Scheidel's The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality is king.

    It's extremely heavily sourced so you can find dozens of books on different aspects of inequality that interest you. It looks at the history of inequality throughout the world and throughout history.

    Depressingly enough, the lessons of history seem pretty simple: inequality is at a historical high, and if society today is the same way it's been historically, revolution or war are some of the few things that lead society to change enough to become substantially more egalitarian.

    4 votes
  3. [2]
    super_james Link
    Capital in the 21st Century is pretty eye opening in its covering of the reality and history of wealth inequality. There is discussion over the finer points drawn from these facts but I think by...

    Capital in the 21st Century is pretty eye opening in its covering of the reality and history of wealth inequality. There is discussion over the finer points drawn from these facts but I think by and large they're good enough.

    3 votes
  4. [2]
    EightRoundsRapid Link
    For an anthropological perspective, you could try Debt, The First 5000 Years by David Graeber https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years And if you don't feel like reading, it was...

    For an anthropological perspective, you could try Debt, The First 5000 Years by David Graeber

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years

    And if you don't feel like reading, it was recently broadcast on Radio 4 in either easily digestible fifteen minute chunks, or longer "omnibus" episodes of 75 minutes

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054zdp6

    3 votes
    1. daft Link Parent
      Thanks. I have the ebook, didn't know about the broadcast thing.

      Thanks. I have the ebook, didn't know about the broadcast thing.

      1 vote
  5. [2]
    borja Link
    One thing you can do to make it outstanding is to focus on where everything is heading right now. I can't talk about all sorts of inequalities, but the one I've deeply been thinking about is...

    One thing you can do to make it outstanding is to focus on where everything is heading right now. I can't talk about all sorts of inequalities, but the one I've deeply been thinking about is privacy inequality. It's not a kind of inequality by itself, but an intensifier of the current inequalities we've seen until now.

    I've intensively written about this. I hope this is helpful for you.

    2 votes
    1. daft Link Parent
      I hadn't considered that. Thanks.

      I hadn't considered that. Thanks.

  6. [2]
    dubteedub Link
    I think that any discussion of wealth inequality should be inter-sectional and that race is a huge factor, particularly in America. Here are a couple places to start. The racial wealth gap: How...

    I think that any discussion of wealth inequality should be inter-sectional and that race is a huge factor, particularly in America.

    Here are a couple places to start.

    2 votes
  7. patience_limited Link
    I know this is a "books" list, but you may find a rich vein of material under the academic term, "wealth defense" (I'm not sure about the antecedents, whether the term came from, or was borrowed...

    I know this is a "books" list, but you may find a rich vein of material under the academic term, "wealth defense" (I'm not sure about the antecedents, whether the term came from, or was borrowed for, financial services marketing), as well as the broader heading of "inequality".

    I've found both of these to be illuminating:

    Wealth Defense and the Complicity of Liberal Democracy
    There's a longer treatise by Winters, Oligarchy, which deals with the intersection of political and wealth control, but it's not peaked on Reading Mountain yet.

    The Kleptocracy Curse [PDF]

    *Fun extra credit assignment and historical curiosity: The Race for Wealth