Global Inequality

Ayse Kaya

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Global Inequality

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The study of global economic inequality focuses primarily on the income inequalities across states or across individuals in the world. While the former type of inequality is defined as “international inequality,” the latter kind is generally referred to as “global inequality.” Although the primary focus is on income measures, such as measures of per capita gross domestic product of countries, the literature also focuses on other aspects of inequality across states and individuals, such as measures of wealth, disparities in life expectancy, and gender inequalities. It should be noted that establishing firm causal links between globalization, simply understood as increasing openness to trade and investment flows, and increasing inequality within and across countries can be an elusive task. Regardless of whether and the extent to which globalization can be identified as the culprit in putative increases in inequality, discussions on international or global inequality (herein referred to as “worldwide inequalities”) are embedded in a number of debates surrounding globalization. First, the debate on what engenders economic growth is crucial to the discussion on economic inequality, with the assumption that the absence of economic growth equals the absence of economic development, strictly defined. The literature on the relationship between inequality and growth also illuminates the crucial social and political repercussions of inequality, including inequality’s negative effects on social cohesion. Second, the issue of worldwide inequality raises a number of questions about the role of key international organizations. Crucially, economic inequality can easily translate into political inequality, such as disparities in representation and voice, in international organizations. In this respect, it can not only undermine the legitimacy of these organizations but also hamper efforts at international cooperation. When shaped by the rich, these organizations can easily underemphasize, as some authors contend, issues that matter deeply to the poor, including migration as a tool of economic development. At the same time, it is important to assess whether foreign aid provided by the rich—often, though not exclusively, through international organizations—engenders economic development. Authors disagree on how and whether aid helps. Third, the issue of worldwide inequalities invokes normative questions, such as whether global inequality matters, what the duties of the rich toward the poor across the world should be, and whether such duties should exist in the first place. In exploring the duties of the rich toward the poor, scholars once again emphasize many of the negative repercussions of inequality, including reduced levels of social cohesion (nationally and internationally), power asymmetries between the rich and the poor at international organizations, and the way inequality stifles the political voice of the poor, both domestically and in international forums. Fourth, there is a lively debate on the interrelationship between inequality and violent conflict, such as civil wars and terrorism, with authors disagreeing on the extent to which and the mechanism through which poverty and inequality relate to incidences of violence. The literature on global economic inequality is inevitably dominated by econometric analyses.

Article.  10220 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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