WSI Mitteilungen

: Issue 05/2018

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 347–357

Olaf Groh-Samberg, Nepomuk Hurch, Nora Waitkus

Status competition and social segregation: Dynamics of inequality


In view of increased economic inequalities, modernisation theory fails to account for contemporary dynamics of social inequality. Based on an alternative narrative of marketisation, this article outlines how inequality dynamics evolve in “high inequality regimes”. The authors propose an analytical distinction between the dynamics of social segregation, leading to socio-economic as well as cultural and political closure of social class milieus, and the dynamics of status competition within these milieus, leading to heterogeneous effects. The interplay of the two processes offers a perspective for explaining the prevailing lack of political action in face of inequalities that are generally regarded as being too high and a threat to social cohesion. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 358–369

Barbara Binder, Andreas Haupt

Prosperity for all? The development of low-income households since 2005


The article deals with the stability of income inequality since 2005 and focuses in particular on the development of low-income households. The authors show that the constant level of inequality has been accompanied by a stagnation of household incomes for most of the income distribution. The upswing in the labour market since 2005 has therefore not led to increased prosperity for either the majority of households nor for those with low incomes. The study shows that the stagnating income inequality conceals a multitude of overlapping developments that are rarely discussed in public. Some households that are strongly integrated into the labour market experience markedly positive income trends and can hence be regarded as the winners of the economic upswing. Households that are disconnected from the labour market – especially inactive households and households in marginal employment – are the losers in a social policy set-up that is increasingly focused on high labour-market integration. A resulting aggravation of inequality in the lower income distribution group was recently overshadowed by pension increases. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 370–381

Patrick Sachweh, Debora Eicher

Attitudes towards a wealth tax in Germany. A vignette study based on recent survey data


In the face of rising economic inequality in Germany, a reintroduction of the wealth tax – which was abandoned in 1997 – has become a demand in public and political debate. Based on a vignette study embedded in a recent survey, the paper investigates the characteristics of the wealthy which shape popular support for a wealth tax and how social groups differ in their support. Its findings show that among the characteristics of the wealthy, attributes that indicate meritocratic wealth accumulation lower support for a wealth tax, while non-meritocratic factors increase support. This is especially the case for respondents from lower- and middle-income groups. Upper-income groups disagree with a wealth tax, particularly if the wealthy individuals come from a wealthy family background. All in all, the results underline the significance of merit for the legitimation of wealth and its taxation. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 382–391

Cornelia Koppetsch

Right-wing populism as class conflict? Social degradation and political mobilisation


From a perspective of theoretical inequality, the causes of the rise of populist right-wing parties in Europe are attributed either primarily to socio-economic divisions or primarily to cultural divisions. Theoretically as well as empirically an integrated perspective appears more substantial, which understands the conflicts about truth and sovereignty of interpretation that arise in rightwing populism as expression of symbolic struggles which attack the entire régime at the present time. Following Pierre Bourdieu’s theory, the author explains how the political narratives of right-wing populism tie in with pre-political class specific attitudes and habitual patterns. The specificity of these habitual patterns results from transformations in response to the declassification experiences made since 1989, which also affect milieus in the upper and middle classes. The article illuminates the motives of mobilisation in three milieus: the conservative upper class, the traditional middle class and the precarious lower class. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 392–400


Global inequalities and contested borders


Global inequalities are typically assessed on the basis of income differentials between countries. Yet, sociological inequality research is not interested in income as such, but in the capabilities that result from financial resources. Capabilities or life chances depend on the relations between resources and contexts in which resources are recognised and valued. Hence, a better sociological understanding of context relations and their impact on global inequalities is required. The struggles about access to contexts and about closure of advantageous contexts is an essential structuring force of global inequalities, here termed as social-spatial autonomy. In the tradition of critical social science, the paper argues that conflicts about border closure as well as the rise of right-wing populism in the Global North can only be understood if the structure of global inequalities and, in particular, the importance of social-spatial autonomy are taken into account. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 401–412

Malte Lübker, Thorsten Schulten

WSI European Collective Bargaining Report-2017/2018: Wage developments and the dynamics of inequality


The latest European Collective Bargaining Report of the WSI gives an overview on recent trends in wage developments in the European Union in the years 2017 and 2018. It analyses the development of collectively agreed and effective wages against the background of the general economic framework conditions in Europe. Moreover, the report analyses the importance of wage shares and wage dispersion for income inequality in Europe and argues in favour of a strengthening of collective bargaining institutions in order to promote a more inclusive growth model. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 413–419

Anita Tiefensee, Dorothee Spannagel

Income and wealth inequality in Germany


In Germany, income inequality has risen since reunification, both in terms of market income and disposable income (after state redistribution). The main reasons for this include polarised wage distribution, the strengthening of capital income and a decline in state redistribution. Wealth inequality has remained high for more than a decade. Essential determinants of wealth are inheritances and donations. In this article the authors summarise the present state of knowledge in the research on income and wealth inequality and they recommend measures in order to prevent a further increase. Strong bargaining coverage as well as the enforcement and increase of the statutory minimum wage and more progressive taxes are key starting points. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 420-424

Tandiwe Gross, Frank Hoffer

Increasing inequality: idealised myths and strategies for change


The financial and economic crisis of 2008 has challenged the hegemonic discourse on the unavoidability of social inequality. The aim of this article is to identify the various arguments in the discourse of justification and to show why the arguments presented are not valid. It becomes clear that inequality is neither an unavoidable nor irreversible phenomenon. Rather it is a change in policy that can bring about more fairness and this is both necessary and possible. To this end essential measures are proposed. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 425-426

Stefan Bach

Tax reform: more progression against increasing inequality


Despite increasing income and wealth inequality, the effects of progression and redistribution in the German tax system are declining. The cause is that the significantly more progressive income and corporate taxes contribute to less than half of the total income tax revenue, whereas the indirect consumer-related tax has a regressive effect. Relative to the income of the wealthy, the poorer households bear a considerably higher burden. In this article the author considers how this trend can be countered through socio-political and tax measures. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 5/2018, pp. 427-428

Andrej Holm

Living causes poverty


Housing conditions are determined by the social situation. The lower the income, the worse are the living conditions. But living conditions are more than merely an effect of social inequality because the living costs burden households with low income significantly more than those better off and thereby intensify inequality within society. As there is no economic advantage in offering low-priced accommodation, the author puts forward the idea that there must be socially-determined housing as an element of public responsibility. Instruments such as a rent brake, housing benefits or housing construction laws do not do justice to the responsibility and are largely unsuited to closing the gaps in the provision of accommodation in towns and cities. more... (in German)