The Great Divide

By Brown, Craig | Teaching Business & Economics, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

The Great Divide


Brown, Craig, Teaching Business & Economics


A LEVEL ECONOMICS The Great Divide by Joseph Stiglitz, Allen Lane, 2015, paperback, £8.26 from Amazon, ISBN: 978 0241202906.

First published in 2015 but published by Penguin Books in 2016, this book by the Nobel Prize winning economist and the world's foremost critic of economic and political inequality contains a collection of over 50 previously published articles on the theme of economic and political inequality. The articles (under 10 pages long on average), which generally cover the period of the 2007 recession and beyond, consider the dimensions of inequality, the causes of America's growing inequality, the consequences of inequality and policy prescriptions. Although regional perspectives are also considered, the articles are mainly focused on the United States of America.

I would strongly recommend this book to teachers of Economics for a number of reasons. As the articles are relatively short, they can easily be set as background reading for pupils. The articles are probably best read individually, as opposed to reading through the entire book. (There is a degree of overlap across some of the articles.) The fact that the articles were previously written for an assortment of periodicals and newspapers makes them extremely accessible for pupils. Textbooks tend to offer a fairly predictable analysis of inequality and fail to delve into the depths of this, arguably one of the most serious issues of our age. Stiglitz identifies inequality of opportunity as a particular tragedy, preventing many of the poorest in society from equal access to health and education. Particular emphasis is placed upon the interrelationships between inequality of opportunity, economic inequality and political inequality.

Stiglitz does not hold back when confronting the extent to which politics has become corrupted through the large political donations which all too frequently see economic policies benefiting the richest and harming the poorest in society. He is very clear that the current American capitalist economy is not some natural force but rather a system created by the policies which have been actively pursued by successive governments, especially since the Reagan administration. Students will find his analysis of the great recession particularly damning, both in terms of the unethical practices deployed by financial institutions, often unfairly hurting the poorest, as well as the political interventions which saw, as he refers to it, a kind of 'ersatz capitalism' in which losses were socialised and profits privatised. …

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