During the 20th Century, the reduction in economic inequality shifted focus away from the discrimination that had previously prevented access to the middle class.
Over the last ten years, the issue of economic inequality has made a comeback, with the worldwide success of Thomas Piketty's work, which has put the spotlight on wealth.
But various experts have criticised this focus on capital inequalities, noting for example the existence of incomes without capital or the ever powerful effects of redistribution in European societies.
More worrying is the impact these inequalities have on people’s futures, leading to the reconstitution of polarised and watertight social classes, both on the side of the advantaged and the disadvantaged.
Research Fellow at the Institute for Industrial Economics Research (IFN)
The 20th Century as a whole has been an era of strong equalisation in western societies. But there is more of a debate if we consider the last four decades.
By rewarding success and increasing income inequality western societies have managed to solve their efficiency crisis and make everyone better off.
Some economists point out an increasing inequality in wealth. But there are debates about both the measure and the distribution of wealth. Most people are part of collective pension systems in which they don’t “own” assets but have drawing rights on future income streams.
In recent years the central banks’ quantitative easing policies might have created a wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots: redistribution policies are back in the agenda.
Reducing inequality has always been done most effectively by raising the income and wealth floor from below.
Associate Professor of Global Trade Governance at Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals
CEO of DataCore Innovations LLC
With the health crisis, existing inequalities (between men and women, black and white, rich and poor) have worsened.
The interdependencies between types of inequalities have also increased.
Lock downs have introduced or given prominence to new types of inequality, from the digital divide to the possibility of remote working.
Among school-age children and students, these overlapping and exacerbated inequalities can greatly impact people’s futures.
Journalist and Author
Editor of Telos and author, Richard Robert teaches at Sciences Po. He directed the Paris Innovation Review from 2012 to 2018. Latest books: Le Social et le Politique (dir., with Guy Groux and Martial Foucault), CNRS éditions, 2020, La Valse européenne (with Élie Cohen), Fayard, published in March 2021.