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Events Archive - Inequality, Welfare and Social Justice Interdisciplinary Research Cluster

January - March 2021

5 March 2021
2-6.30 pm - Zoom

SOCIOBORD kick-off meeting 
Professor Laura Lee Downs (HEC) officially launch her ERC project "Social Politics in European Borderlands, 1870s-1990s: A comparative and transnational study" (SOCIOBORD)
SOCIOBORD seeks to reframe the history of welfare and social care in modern Europe by restoring to view the contribution of local actors – primarily families and associations - to shaping welfare systems in three borderland regions of north-western, eastern, and south-eastern Europe from the 1870s through the 1990s. By adopting a "triadic" approach, which understands families, associations and states as co-constructors of social welfare, and focusing on borderland regions, where the reach of central states often fluctuated, Prof Downs and her team will examine a wide range of local welfare structures, based on national, but also non-national forms of identity/solidarity (occupation, religion, gender, etc.). Focusing on these overlapping, and at times competing structures of social provision will allow the SOCIOBORD team to explore the interplays between inclusion and exclusion that have long shaped European welfare provision by homing in on those contexts where such competition was particularly visible. For it is our conviction that the long-range historical study of local actors' ideas and practices around social welfare in European borderlands has much to tell us about the development of welfare across Europe in general.

We are pleased to welcome our Advisory Board to SOCIOBORD’s inaugural workshop. The Board is composed of eight world-renowned experts: Professors Pamela Ballinger (University of Michigan), Pieter Judson (EUI), Sonja Matter (Universität Bern), Silvia Salvatici (Università di Milano), Pierre-Yves Saunier (Université Laval), Pat Thane (Kings College), Tara Zahra (University of Chicago) and Marta Verginella (Lljubjana University).

 The workshop will open with a brief presentation of the project’s eleven case studies and the comparative and transnational/transregional methodology by which we intend to connect these case studies into a dynamic whole that is – hopefully – greater than the sum of its parts. Our Advisory Board members will then share their suggestions, offering further guidance and a preliminary evaluation of SOCIOBORD’s ongoing research activities.

 Beyond this core group of respondents, the event will also welcome members of the EUI’s interdisciplinary cluster on Inequality, Social Welfare and Social Justice (co-convened by Profs Tom Crossley, Laura Lee Downs and Anton Hemerijck), as well as members from the COST Action Who cares in Europe? , which network Professor Downs launched in March 2019. Colleagues from associated projects, including Susan Zimmerman’s ZARAH (Women’s Labor Activism) and Gàbor Egry’s NEPOSTRANS (Negotiating Post-Imperial Transitions) will also join us that day.

1 February 2021
3-4.30 pm - Zoom

Stepping-Stone solidarity
Speakers: Anton Hemerijk (EUI-SPS), Azizjon Bagadirov (EUI-SPS), Pablo Puertas Roig (EUI-SPS)
In this paper, we highlight the marked ‘elective affinity’ between the mid-century welfare state with its universal concern for social (income) security and John Rawls’ conception of ‘justice as fairness’. In addition, we draw attention to how the current momentum of welfare reform across advanced OECD democracies has opened up a space for normative recalibration more in synch with Amartya Sen’s critique of John Rawls’s theory of justice. Although the welfare state of the second half of 20th century had successfully mitigated pressing social risks of industrial economies, today new social risks manifest themselves in the unequal capabilities to successfully manage life-course transitions, connected to health, housing, labour market access and security, as well as to gender-biased opportunities and abilities to sustain work-family life balance. In response, the social investment perspective took root round the turn of the century, marked by a relative shift from compensatory social security to social risk prevention, through targeted interventions that help ‘capacitate’ individuals, families and societies to respond to the changing nature of 21st century social risks. The expansion of social investment provision, beyond the redistributive and compensatory functions of the welfare states, on the one hand, reveals a conceptual need for an extended theoretical framework for empirical analysis, and, on the other, also exposes a normative gap in contemporary welfare policy assessment. To wit, many contemporary criticasters of social investment welfare provision argue that in the legitimation of social investment reform, a ‘social justice’ logic is being displaced by an economic efficiency argument.

By reviewing the history of the modern welfare state, building up to social investment reform, we argue that social investment can be grounded a sui generis conception of solidarity, based on the notion of secure functionings. We argue that the challenge of the new social risks calls not only for a more contextualized conception of social justice in terms of capabilities, but also for an extended, more diverse, and temporally specific support structures, designed to prevent cumulative disadvantage. We thus propose that the normative basis of social investment must include a new type of solidarity, the Stepping-Stone solidarity , that pays special attention to life course transitions when people are particularly vulnerable to cumulative disadvantages (often associated with training, housing, childbearing, employment and health), complementing the traditional organization of social policy through the notions of vertical Robin-Hood solidarity and more horizontal consumption-smoothing Piggy-Bank solidarity , as coined by Nicholas Barr. This extended vision of solidarity allows for a more dynamic rethinking of the welfare states that builds on and supports the classic functions of the welfare state, emphasizing the intimate correlates of the ‘good life’ and the ‘good polity’.

May - December 2020

16 November 2020
3-4:15 pm - via Zoom

Thomas Piketty on Capital and Ideology. An EUI-interdisciplinary review essay
Speakers: Laura Downs (EUI-HEC), Jakob Frizell (EUI-SPS), Anton Hemerijck (EUI-SPS), Marta Lopes (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), Fabian Mushovel (LSE) and Ludwig Pelzl (EUI-HEC)
Presentation of an EUI-interdisciplinary review essay of Thomas Piketty's book "Capital and Ideology" (table of contents)
Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology is a tour de force. Ranging across time periods and countries, the book provides an extremely rich empirical study on how inequality has been legitimated around the globe over centuries. The 2020 sequel to Piketty’s much praised Capital in the 21st Century, published in English in 2014, is in many respects more ambitious. Capital and Ideology is a compelling interdisciplinary exercise, venturing into history and political science, political economy and sociology, away from Piketty’s home discipline of economics, to settle on a largely political explanation of the staying power of inequalities. Ultimately, in terms of policy prescription, Piketty’s advocates what he calls ‘participatory socialism’, incorporating progressive income taxation, high inheritance taxes and a capital endowment for each individual, as effective and fair.
At its core, Capital and Ideology abandons the deterministic inference of ever-growing wealth inequality as a function of the rate of return on capital surpassing the rate of economic growth. Much like its instant-classic predecessor, Capital and Ideology rests on well researched primary sources and is immensely rich in detail. As such the book is destined to spur further cross-disciplinary debate on capitalism and inequality, and how to redress deepening economic disadvantage.
As a modest contribution to this important interdisciplinary debate, a small group of scholars at the European University Institute (EUI) with training in economics, history, political science and sociology teamed up to discuss the merits and the weaknesses of Thomas Piketty’s impressive sequel to Capital in the 21st Century. Our review essay comprises six sections. First, we reflect on the broad historical narrative that Piketty recounts in the book. Next, we seek to unearth Piketty’s theoretical take on institutional change and the role of ideas lurking behind the punctuated succession of ‘inequality regimes’ across the globe. Close to Piketty’s disciplinary home base of economics, in the third section we discuss indicators and issues effective taxation. This is followed, fourth, by an analysis of the politics to enforce more progressive policies across the EU. We then compare the merits of Piketty’s policy option of ‘participatory socialism’ in relation to ‘social investment’ – an alternative advocated mostly by leading sociologists. Our conclusion draws wider implications for future research on inequality across welfare democracies. 


2 November 2020
3-4:30 pm, via Zoom

Stimulus packages or social protection? COVID-19 crisis responses fit for children in high-income countries
Speaker: Dominic Richardson (Unicef Research Centre)
High-income countries have very limited experience of dealing with health crises, having their health and human services working beyond capacity, restricting their inhabitants’ travel, or having to close workplaces and schools – let alone dealing with several in combination. These unique conditions create new and serious challenges for high-income countries’ economies and societies, and as these challenges evolve, children are amongst those at the greatest risk of seeing their living standard fall. To contribute evidence to understanding what the pandemic means for children and, in turn, what governments and stakeholders in high-income countries should consider when seeking to protect children from the worst outcomes of the crisis, I ask: Through which mechanisms can COVID-19 affect children in high-income countries? What can we learn from previous crises about the potential effects on children and those who care for children? How is children’s vulnerability to poverty likely to be affected? Which initial government responses to the crisis appear to raise rather than lower risks to children’s well-being? Finally, how might future Covid-19 policies be optimised in the short- and medium-term to protect children? 


19 October 2020
3-4:15 pm
Hybrid event (Sala del Capitolo and Zoom)

The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth
Speaker: Aruni Mitra (Max Weber Fellow, EUI-ECO)
Presentation of The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth by Chang-Tai Hsieh, Erik Hurst, Charles I. Jones, and Peter J. Klenow (Econometrica, Vol. 87, No. 5, September 2019). 
We will study how disadvantaged groups in the U.S., namely women and black men, have caught up with white men in terms of employment in high-skilled occupations like medicine and law. Given that the innate talent for these professions is unlikely to have changed differently across groups, the observed change in the occupational distribution reflects a lowering of the degree of talent misallocation over time due to the following three reasons – (i) lower discrimination in the labour market, (ii) reduced barriers to acquiring human capital for the high-skilled professions, and (iii) change in preferences or social norms regarding the choice of occupations across groups. We will describe a theoretical framework to quantify the relative contribution of each of these three channels of reducing talent misallocation. Furthermore, we will also quantify the impact of the improved allocation of talented people across occupations on the aggregate productivity of the U.S. economy.


5 October 2020
3-5 pm
Hybrid event (Sala degli Stemmi and Zoom)

Inequalities between men and women and gender violence: do they really go together?
Speaker: Francesca Bettio (University of Siena)
The lockdown following the Covid emergency has raised awareness of the concept of resilience, but also awakened the public to the extent of domestic violence in our societies. One question that needs a clear answer is whether progress in gender equality actually helps reduce violence against women. While progressive political circles often spread positive expectations in this regard, the issue remains controversial in the specialized literature. I will show that the answer depends crucially on how violence is measured. Using an authoritative data source for Europe – the survey by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) – I will show that, when properly measured, domestic violence against women tends to be lower in more gender-equal countries. In the public domain however, including the work domain, there is no solid evidence of this relationship between equality and decreased violence. Based on these findings I shall open the discussion on possible post-Covid scenarios with participants to the seminar.


25 June 2020
11-13 am - via Zoom

Reading group on Thomas Piketty's book "Capital and Ideology" - Part III, chapters 12  and 13 and Part IV

11 June 2020
2-4 pm - via Zoom

Reading group on Thomas Piketty's book "Capital and Ideology" - Part III, chapters 10 and 11

21 May 2020
10:30 - 12:30 am
via Zoom

Reading group on Thomas Piketty's book "Capital and Ideology" - Parts I and II

Page last updated on 08 April 2021

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