Documentation "Re-Thinking Social Inequality"

Herrenhausen Conference, Hanover, May 12-14, 2014

In cooperation with the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and other research institutions, the Volkswagen Foundation held a conference on social inequality. The objective was to present new research questions pertaining to the theme of social inequality as well as innovative methodological approaches to this field; through this, the conference aimed to challenge traditional perspectives, to facilitate a dialogue between experts from various backgrounds and to open up new ways of thinking about and coping with social inequality.


Pictures from the Herrenhausen Conference "Re-Thinking Social Inequality"

Photographs: Mathias Schumacher / VolkswagenStiftung


Democracy and Social Equity: Potential Tensions

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Paul Collier, Economist, Oxford University

In his talk for the Volkswagen Foundation, Collier gives one central and provocative argument for why the extremly poor stay poor: "Democracy", he says, "fails to counter the forces of inequality". According to Collier, democracy is by nature a divisive power and does not produce the identities, narratives and norms that are necessary to create more equality.

Re-Imaging Equality: Reflections on Civil Society and Markets

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John Keane, Political Scientist, University of Sydney and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin

John Keane looks at the history of the relation between civil society and capitalism. Markets, he says, produce communities of friends. But at the same time, they create competition and disfunction, for example, when large conglomerations of power produce mega-projects. If those go wrong, the effects  are catastrophic.

Market Liberalism, Marginalized Citizens and the Counter-Movements in India

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Sarbeswar Sahoo, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, India

Sahoo was 1 of 45 young researchers who were invited to participate at the conference. In his talk he explains how the failure of the economic reforms to benefit the poor has given rise to several counter-movements: Reactionary, reformist, welfarist and political movements all try to make the poor benefit from India's growth.

The Importance of Access to Professional Training and Higher Education

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Shoshona Zuboff, Social Psychologist, Harvard Business School

In the transition to an information civilization, there is one central question: Will we be the masters of information, or will we be its slaves? The answer depends to a large extend on how we, as a society, create access to education, and what form this education has. This is what Shoshana Zuboff explores in her talk for the Volkswagen Foundation.