Discrimination in an Unequal World

Discrimination in an Unequal World

Discrimination in an Unequal World

Discrimination in an Unequal World

Synopsis

Is globalization making our world more equal, or less? Proponents of globalization argue that it is helping and that in a competitive world, no one can afford to discriminate except on the basis of skills. Opponents counter that globalization does nothing but provide a meritocratic patina on a consistently unequal distribution of opportunity. Yet, despite the often deafening volume of the debate, there is surprisingly little empirical work available on the extent to which the process of globalization over the past quarter century has had any effect on discrimination. Tackling this challenge, Discrimination in an Unequal World explores the relationship between discrimination and unequal outcomes in the appropriate geographical and historical context. Noting how each society tends to see its particular version of discrimination as universal and obvious, the editors expand their set of cases to include a broad variety of social relations and practices. However, since methods differ and are often designed for particular national circumstances, they set the much more ambitious and practical goal of establishing a base with which different forms of discrimination across the world can be compared. Derived from a broad array of methods, the book draws many important lessons on the new means by which the world creates social hierarchies, the democratization of inequality, and the disappearance of traditional categories.

Excerpt

This volume grew out of an annual conference sponsored by Princeton University’s Global Network on Inequality, a group of 25 research institutions around the world that are actively engaged in research on the causes, consequences, and remedies for inequality. Now spanning universities and research institutes in Latin America (Brazil and Chile), Africa (South Africa), Asia (China, Korea, India, Japan), the Middle East (Israel), South Asia (India), and Europe (Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and Poland), the network has been in existence since 2004 and continues to grow to incorporate new countries and new fields of study.

Inequality is growing rapidly both in postindustrial societies and in the high-growth economies of the developing world. The symptoms can be measured in Gini coefficients and gated communities, in unequal access to institutions of social mobility and the emergence of stark health disparities, in the flows of international migration and the local patterns of segregation. The consequences are visible in unequal patterns of educational attainment, lopsided engagement in elections, and earlier mortality for some groups than for others. Indeed, few problems of interest to sociologists, political scientists, labor economists, and social psychologists are unrelated to the broad patterns of inequality sweeping the modern world.

The forces leading to increased inequality are not completely understood and generate animated controversy in the academic world and the popular press. Some have suggested that globalization is the culprit, permitting the movement of jobs out of the center and into the periphery, where wages are low, setting off high growth rates in countries like China and India that accelerate the advantages of education in those countries. Others have fingered technological change, emphasizing the ways in which the computer revolution created a demand for a well-educated workforce and casting the poorly prepared into an abyss of poverty, the “gray economy,” and criminal occupations. The declining strength of unions—itself a response to global pressures and runaway firms—has diminished the clout of labor, now far . . .

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