Over the course of the last few years, governments, policy makers and social scientists have rekindled an interest in the study of inequality. Inequality has come into focus again at the same time as the gap between rich and poor in many western nations has begun increasing after a long period of convergence. The pressures faced by welfare systems also threaten non-income mechanisms of equalization, in education, access to childcare, or health provision.
Yet, even as social scientists have developed tools to diagnose inequalities and their multiple consequences, there is much less attention to how inequalities are created, reconstructed and reinforced over time, and to how societies come to accept some inequalities as ‘natural’ and others as unjustifiable and immoral.
The Inequality, Social Science and History Research network will over the next two years bring together innovative historians and social scientists interested in (a) debating how the historical and social sciences can share ideas and develop new methodologies to approach the question of inequality over time, and; (b) developing and sharing groundbreaking work on inequality in historical perspective not just across disciplinary boundaries, but also beyond academia, seeking to contribute historical depth to contemporary debates.
In particular, the network is guided by the following interdisciplinary questions:
How can new understandings of fundamental categories (the social, the economic, the political) help us analyse the processes that are implicated in the production and reproduction of inequalities?
How does materiality – spaces, objects and instruments - participate in the production and transformation of inequalities, for instance through commodities, space and technology, as well as the body itself?
What is the relationship between the state, governmentality and inequality in historical perspective?
How are attitudes towards acceptable and unacceptable inequality created, reproduced and transformed?
In what ways can we engage with the production of inequality beyond the boundaries of the nation-state, both internationally, between states, and transnationally, as inequalities between individuals and groups across nations?
Can the concept of inequality help articulate established analytical categories such as race, class and gender, in new and fruitful directions?
More broadly, and through its involvement with non-academic participants, the network will develop channels and outputs through which long-term perspectives on equality and inequality can inform contemporary debates about the nature and political use of such concepts.