Category Archives: Poverty and Inequality

A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Nat O'ConnorNat O’Connor, IRiSS, Ulster University

We all know that living on a low income is a daily challenge.

It’s not just about carefully planning the week’s spending—and deciding what things to do without—but it is a balancing act to deal with unexpected expenses: a medical emergency, a debt to be repaid or an extra cost for a child’s school trip.

And there is no point at which someone waves a magic wand and says here’s money that will clear your debts and allow you to patch up the fabric of your life. Most people won’t inherit money or be given a lump sum when they reach retirement age. Continue reading A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Danny Dorling
Danny Dorling

Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…

The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).

In Scotland all but three of the constituencies fell to the Scottish National Party (SNP) which now represented as wide a cross-section of society as it is possible to imagine. The former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, Alex Salmond became Continue reading Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Democracy without the State, by Mark Purcell

This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, https://pathtothepossible.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/democracy-without-the-state/ and is reused with kind permission.

Mark Purcell giving his keynote at the conference last month
Mark Purcell giving his keynote at the conference last month

Below is the text of the talk I just gave at the Policy & Politics conference in Bristol (England). As you can see, I was very conscious of the audience, which I was not quite sure I had a handle on, but which turned out, I think, to be a group of people who think a lot about government and policy, but do so very critically and intelligently. So my message, that we need to get serious about thinking democracy without the State, was in a sense a message “from beyond,” but one they were able to hear and engage with, even if they did not fully accept it. Also important to know is that the theme of the conference was “Democracy, Inequality, and Power.”

[The paragraphs in brackets were part of the talk, but they were offered as asides. Those with a “***SKIP***” tag were in fact left out.]

DEMOCRACY AGAINST, BEYOND, AND WITHOUT THE STATE

Introduction

When you find yourself on a list of plenary speakers like this one, in which all the others have really deep track records of academic achievement, you ask yourself what the heck you are doing here and what you can contribute. I don’t have their record, I am not a social scientist, I don’t study inequality, I am not even British.

I guess what I am is someone who has thought about and written some on democracy, on the idea and practices of democracy. So I thought what I would do today is offer a contribution along those lines. What I plan to do, we’ll see how it goes, is to introduce into the conference what I anticipate will be a minor current of thought. Continue reading Democracy without the State, by Mark Purcell

Danny Dorling on the persistence of social inequality

Based on his plenary session at the 2015 Policy & Politics conference on why social inequalities persist, Danny Dorling talked to Policy & Politics about the persistence of growing inequalities in the UK. Drawing on multiple sources of evidence, he suggests causal links with depleting mental health in the young, the increased use of anti-depressent drugs, and high rates of infant deaths than in similar affluent countries, sketching a narrative of the insidious potential social consequences for our society in a hundred years’ time…

Listen to his compelling call to action and the consequences of ignoring it…

For more on social inequalities and why they persist, see Danny’s latest book Injustice. For more of Danny’s work in Policy & Politics, read his latest article: Policy, Politics, Health and Housing in the UK.

The human cost of inequality

IMG_3932by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference 2015

The second day of the conference started with an excellent presentation from Prof. Kate Pickett, from the University of York. Kate co-authored the influential book “The Spirit Level” which provided evidence to illustrate how almost everything is affected not by how wealthy a society is but how equal it is. The book was written at a time when inequality was not being discussed, and even now, whilst it is indeed the subject of much more debate on an international stage, it is still only rhetoric, and we are still waiting for this to translate into real action.

There are some shocking statistics that illustrate the level of the challenge we face across the globe, such as the one used by Oxfam – the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people – illustrating a truly grotesque level of inequality. But, as Kate pointed out, we need to remember that these are not just meaningless, abstract numbers, they represent real human suffering and have real impacts. Continue reading The human cost of inequality

Why social inequality persists

IMG_3926by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.

The second plenary session of the Policy and Politics Annual Conference was delivered by Prof. Danny Dorling, who provided a shocking and somewhat scary analysis of the increasing levels of inequality in the UK. The big question for us all to consider is why there is no consistent challenge to this situation and why we appear to accept the disparities that exist. Why is it acceptable and why would anyone think inequalities are a good thing?

One answer to the question is that we don’t actually realise how unequal we are as a society. But a quick look through some of the statistics soon provides the evidence we need. Danny took us through graph after graph that more than adequately demonstrated just how big the problem is and that it is increasing. One example to illustrate the point, in 2010 the best off tenth of the population in the UK were nearly 14 times better off than the worst off tenth. By 2015 this had grown to more than 17 times better off, and if the trend continues on a similar course in less than 20 years the best off will have over 24 times as much disposable income as the worst off. The problem is that the change is gradual, we don’t notice it so much and we get Continue reading Why social inequality persists

Policy experts and the making of the ‘Age of Austerity’

Hartwig Pautz
Hartwig Pautz

Hartwig Pautz from the University of the West of Scotland discusses his forthcoming panel at the International Conference of Interpretive Policy,July 2015 in Lille, France.

The relationship between policy expertise and policy outcomes and the role that ‘politics’ plays has inspired a rich and varied literature – with academics, journalists and pro-transparency campaigners making important and thought-provoking contributions. They tackle questions of influence and power, discuss the ‘red lines’ between legitimate exchanges and undue influence and critique the diminishing part which academic scholars play in political discourse.  In short: the role of policy experts and their activities in a complex world is considered by many worth thorough and critically-minded scrutiny.

The near-collapse of the global financial system and the ‘Great Recession’ set in motion, in many western countries, a number of policy changes Continue reading Policy experts and the making of the ‘Age of Austerity’