Welfens, P.J.J.: New Inequality and Late Modernity Analysis: Economic Perspectives and Sociological Misperceptions

Welfens, P.J.J.: New Inequality and Late Modernity Analysis: Economic Perspectives and Sociological Misperceptions

JEL classification: D63, F00, O1, O33

Key words: Inequality, global economy, technology, singularity, critical rationalism, evidence, paternoster effect

Summary:

Since the 1990s, distributional issues have once again become a focus of analysis in OECD countries and elsewhere. It has, however, become less common in the social sciences to engage in vigorous scientific debate about important phenomena and theses or to engage critically with different scientific approaches. This has led to the existence of different analytical findings in the social sciences - for example, in the fields of Economics and Sociology – that at times completely contradict each other; interestingly, this also applies to questions of inequality analysis. Based on a knowledge of key statistics and regression or simulation analyses, as well as thanks to theorems of foreign trade theory, a differentiated picture of inequality developments in the context of globalization has been formed in Economics. However, some experts in the field of Sociology in Germany, such as Andreas Reckwitz in his book “The Society of Singularities”, offer contributions to the debate which lack any recognizable theoretical foundation or empirical evidence on such important topics as economic-cultural rise and decline or inequality dynamics. In turn, certain influential actors in the political sphere have been demonstrably influenced by unscientific passages in Reckwitz’s book, so that his very questionable claims regarding inequality dynamics - under the heading of a “paternoster effect” could have a destabilizing effect in national politics in Germany, supranational EU politics and even beyond. Policies that do not rely on theory- and evidence-based statements in important fields, but rather on untested assumptions, contribute to the “risk society”: endangering the stability and economic prosperity of all strata. It seems desirable to work on the basis of theory and evidence-based foundations in science and to pay careful attention to empirical results in the scientific and political communities; in doing so, also to take critical note of the current Reckwitz debate, which has also been somewhat controversial within the field of Sociology. Moreover, the approach of using lifetime effective income for the purposes of international comparison is both important and innovative.

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