Why Inequality Matters (in historical perspective)
Pedro Ramos Pinto
This paper is the result of an invitation to write a chapter on the historical perspective on inequality for a book aimed at development practitioners and policy makers across the world. The aim of this network has always been to do exactly that - putting different constituencies and languages in contact with each other, but where does one start?
Because it requires condensing a vast amount of sociological and historical research, the paper would always leave a lot out. But it focuses on how history can contribute in two ways: in helping to understand the multiple ways of being unequal that hide behind aggregations and inter-country comparisons such as the GINI index; and in showing how the layers of the past interact with global forces (such as capital) to produce specific modes of inequality.
'Why Inequality Matters' has just been published in English and French in a leading annual report: Regards sur la Terre/Planet for life, whose 2013 edition is Reducing Inequalities: A Sustainable Development Challenge. The report is a joint venture between The Energy and Resources Institute in India, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (Iddri) at Sciences Po, Paris.
The book was launched at Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in Delhi on 1st February 2013, and includes 13 chapters, with contributions from Thomas Piketty, Sridhar Venkatapuram and François Bourguignon, amongst others.
Below you can read the English and French versions of the chapter.