Extremely unequal income and wealth conditions are a recurring source of conflict and an ongoing hindrance to human development. Scientific research into the phenomenon of wealth is therefore a central element in understanding social transformation processes. With the funding initiative 'Perspectives on Wealth', the Volkswagen Foundation aims to initiate a shift of perspective from poverty research to facets surrounding the phenomenon of wealth.
It is estimated that approximately the 2,000 richest people on the globe have more financial capital than 60 percent of the world's population (4.77 billion people). This unequal distribution has many different causes and effects. It is rooted in local, national and global (power) structures, among others, and manifests itself in access to basic goods, the labor market, housing conditions, opportunities for social participation or social vulnerability. In the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, wealth concentration has continued to increase dramatically. This development is not least a rejection of the promise of equality held out by democratic societies and thus a potential threat to their stability. At the same time, societies can also benefit from the wealth of their members if individual wealth is distributed among the community. Wealthy individuals also have resources to make investments, which in turn can translate into employment and prosperity for others. In order to grasp the complexity of the social phenomenon, a differentiated view of wealth is required.
In the first call for proposals on this topic, the focus is on the genesis of wealth. Against the background of societal transformation processes in the past, present and future and the respective existing power and domination relations, the call aims to generate conceptual, methodological and empirical findings on the topic of '(Re-)Production of Wealth'.
Scope of Funding
The first call for proposals under the 'Perspectives on Wealth' funding initiative is titled 'The (Re-)Production of Wealth'. It encompasses three funding lines:
1. International cooperation projects
In the first funding line, applications can be submitted for cooperation projects in which researchers from German universities or research institutions work together with international partners on equal terms in order to generate empirical findings on the (re)production and genesis of wealth in a global perspective and to initiate a target group-specific transfer. Both micro- and macro-level studies are possible. The consortia should consist of teams of three to five principle investigators. Main applicants must be employed at an institution in Germany. The integration of at least two international partners, preferably based in the Global South (low- and middle-income countries, according to World Bank classification), is mandatory; in addition, the integration of non-state actors (NGOs, etc.) is highly desirable.
2. National Collaborative Projects:
In the second funding line, national collaborative projects involving up to three researchers from at least two different German universities or research institutions can be applied for. Researchers from the humanities, cultural studies, and social sciences will work in closely interacting teams to gain insights into the (re)production and genesis of wealth. The focus will be on the development of new theoretical and methodological concepts for the study of wealth and the communication of these results. The involvement of partners from the natural, life, data and technical sciences is possible.
3. (Inter-)National Summer Schools:
In addition to the calls for collaborative projects, national and international summer schools can be funded in a third funding line. The aim is to provide early-career researchers (especially doctoral students, but also post-docs) with new theoretical and/or methodological perspectives on wealth research. The respective lead applicants must be based at a German university or research institution. The inclusion of international partners is possible. The summer school can take place worldwide - also digitally.
Further information on the conditions of the call for proposals and the application procedure can be found in the section "What Applicants Need to Know" under Information for Applicants 124a-c (pdf).
The funding initiative 'Perspectives on Wealth' was established at the end of 2021 and is part of the profile area 'Societal Transformations'. In this profile area, the Volkswagen Foundation supports research that addresses diverse aspects of transformation processes. It encourages cross-border and multi-perspective approaches and aims to open up new ways of contributing toward shaping societal transformations.