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Alice O'Connor, 'Divided Democracy: Wealth and Economic Citizenship in the Age of Capital’

A public lecture by Professor Alice O'Connor (UCSB) following Day 1 of 'Measuring Matters: Histories of Assessing Inequality'
When Jul 05, 2017
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site
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As economic and social inequalities continue to raise global concern, the framing and understanding of inequality as a problem is fundamentally linked to the way it is measured.  Whether it is the use of GINI coefficients, multi-component indices for measuring human development, or the increasing use of bio-metrics in the contemporary and historical study of inequality, how we gauge and measure disparity defines both the shape of our concerns and the sites of future interventions.

Measures of inequality have a history that matters. Contemporary understandings of inequality are connected to contingent past choices about measures and objects of measurement. Such choices took place in specific historical, social and political contexts. This conference aims to ask how such contexts influence the making and nature of measurement. What kinds of measurement are created in more or less equal sites of production, and how does the ownership of measurement influence the knowledge that is produced? Equally, how do different contexts influence how measurements are interpreted and used?

Once available, how do measurements of inequality gain broad political and ideological acceptance, and where do they face resistance?  When and how are “counter-measures” produced?  How do measures that are devised in particular and possibly exceptional contexts travel and find acceptance in other social and historical locations?  How and why did income come to play such a central role in our accounts of disparity?  How are ideas about citizenship, rights, and political subjectivity shaped by our metrics for gauging inequality?

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History of Wealth Project

This project, co-funded by the Philomathia Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust, investigates the broader significance of wealth an inheritance in 19th and early-20th century Britain.

This programme was launched by POLIS in October 2013, and aims to train future policy-makers to value and promote evidence-based policies that can most benefit society.