This lecture will be given by Professor Alice O’Connor (University of California, Santa Barbara).
In recent years the distribution of wealth has taken centre stage in scholarly studies of inequality, headlined by alarming statistics about the growth and concentration of .01% fortunes, reports on the rising influence of ‘dark money’ in electoral politics, and talk of a 'new gilded age' of conspicuous riches and plutocratic rule. Significant though these indicators are, in this talk I argue that the 'problem' of wealth has to do with more than its now exceedingly well-documented concentration at the very top. It has as much to do with the broader shifts in late twentieth century political economy and social politics that have made wealth a prerequisite for maintaining basic standards of economic and social citizenship - while putting them out of reach for growing numbers of working-and middle-class households. In thinking about the challenges wealth presents for the contemporary 'measure' of inequality I ask what we can learn from earlier moments in the history of social and economic investigation, when knowledge about wealth and poverty was used to open up new ways of thinking about the meaning of economic citizenship in modern democracies, and their implications for reform.
Discussant: Professor Martin Daunton (University of Cambridge).
The talk will form part of the Measuring Matters: Histories of Assessing Inequality workshop (5-7 July 2017) at CRASSH.
This is a public event and is open to all, free of charge. No registration is required.
Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Ellen McArthur Fund (Faculty of History) and the Humanities Research Grants Scheme at the University of Cambridge, the Economic History Society, and the Philomathia Social Sciences Research Programme.