How have inequalities of class and fortune, gender, race, religion, age or region shifted in Europe since the turn of the twentieth century? How have those shifts reshaped social, political and cultural spheres since the twentieth century?
This cross-disciplinary group takes as its point of departure a sobering fact: after a long period during which economic inequalities progressively – if unevenly – narrowed, and poverty levels fell, most European countries have experienced rising economic inequality since 1980. This has had negative effects on social cohesion, equal opportunity and democratic stability.
Our group uses historical and contemporary analysis to explore today’s crisis of inequality, and to unpack the evolving relationships among inequality, social welfare, democracy and social justice. In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe the question of who would provide social services to whom and on what terms was a subject of sharp and complex political and ideological contest. The links that were consciously forged between social welfare and democracy in the mid-twentieth century were the outcome of political struggles and choices made in the shadow of World War II.
However, as the rise of right-wing and populist welfarism in Hungary, France, Italy, Poland and elsewhere demonstrates, the connections between welfare and politics can be, and are being re-thought, with dramatic consequences for the rights of individuals.