Xavier Rambla Sociologia

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Archive for juliol, 2017

jul. 31 2017

Social mobility narrows down

Posted in Desigualtats |

For decades research on social stratification has measured social mobility in a variety of countries. Contrary to initial hypotheses, the findings do not show declining statistical associations between parental social position, individuals’ level of instruction and individuals’ position. At most, these linkages have loosened in a few Scandinavian countries.

Recently, Thomas Piketty has noticed the disparity between the return of high fortunes invested in finance and the average economic growth. In his view, this disparity is likely to constrain future opportunities of social mobility. This month some evidence of this effect has been published. Apparently, social mobility is certainly narrowing down in the US and the UK.

The available corpus of sociological theory suggests a few explanations. First, financialisation and global value chains endow the elite of the income distribution to appropriate a great share of the added value. This phenomenon has been defined as exploitation. Second, the continuous tension between the expansive rights of citizenship and the advancement and retrenchment of fiscal redistribution used to compensate for exploitation, but the outcome of mainstream policies implemented since the seventies seems to have damaged the potential of citizenship. This phenomenon is normally labelled as social closure. Third, the misrecognition of social identities and the common circumstances people experience during their life course also has to do with this imbalance.

Some normative strands of social theory also contribute to understand the importance of these findings. In essence, this debate has confronted those who legitimise inequality if the agregate welfare improves with those who see a flaw of social justice in inequality. The first perspective basically prioritises economic growth and does not worry much about inequality if production levels are eventually increasing. The second perspective argues that social justice is flawed if people are not endowed with enough resources to enjoy a meaningful life. In this view, child poverty, forced labour, evictions, mass imprisonment, economic vulnerability and other correlative manifestations of inequality indicate that many people are not endowed with that mininum threshold of resources.



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