The production and reproduction of inequality in the UK in times of austerity

Abstract

Inequality appears to be back on the intellectual and political agenda. This paper provides a commentary on this renewed interest, drawing on an empirical discussion of inequality in the UK. The paper argues that inequality should be seen as produced in the inherently unequal social relations of production, drawing attention to the role of social struggle in shaping dynamics of inequality. However, inequality is not just produced in dynamic class struggle in the formal economy, but also through the social reproduction of labour power on a day-to-day and inter-generational basis. As such, inequalities of household resources at any point in time may be reproductive of greater future inequality. It is argued that inequality has risen in the UK over recent decades because of changes in the social relations of production in the formal economy and social reproduction in the domestic sector, both of which have witnessed significant state interventions that have increased structural inequalities. It is argued that, absent of significant change, the underpinning structural dynamics in the UK will lead to further increases in inequality over the short and longer-term. Given this, we might expect to see an already emergent ‘New Politics of Inequality’ intensifying in the coming decades.

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Acknowledgments

The paper benefitted enormously from discussion at two workshop discussions in the ESRC Seminar series: ‘From Recovery to Discovery: Opening the Debate on Alternatives to Financialisation’ and in particular discussion and comments with/from Daniela Tepe-Belfrage; Emma Dowling; Sara Wallin; Ruth Cain; Johnna Montgomerie; Angus Cameron; Ruth Pearson and Shirin Rai. The paper also benefited from the very helpful comments and input of three anonymous reviewers. Thanks and gratitude to all, but errors and omissions are the author’s alone.

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Nunn, A. The production and reproduction of inequality in the UK in times of austerity. Br Polit 11, 469–487 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41293-016-0040-6

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Keywords

  • inequality
  • feminism
  • Marxism
  • production
  • reproduction
  • stratification
  • inter-generational mobility