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Inequality, Class, and Power in Global Perspective: Feminist Reflections

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Part of the New Approaches to Religion and Power book series (NARP)

Abstract

Although the European debt crisis dominated the 2012 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (January 25–29) in Davos, Switzerland, according to the Associated Press “for the first time the growing inequality between the planet’s haves and have-nots became an issue, thanks largely to the Arab Spring uprisings, the Occupy movement, and other protests around the globe.”1 The fifty or so World Economic Forum Occupiers, who camped out in igloos throughout the meeting, identified these inequalities not as haves and have-nots, but following other Occupy movements, as “the 1 percent” and the “99 percent.” Their “Call to Action” to Occupy the World Economic Forum, charged “This year, we will not let them exclude us, the—99%!” They called on others to join them “and stand up against the WEF and the 1% that are making the rules of this unfair global economy.”2

Keywords

World Economic Forum Fair Labor Association Private Wealth Global Income Royal Dutch Shell 
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Notes

  1. 4.
    Although the top 1 percent own 35.6 percent of US private wealth, the top 95–99 percent own 27.9 percent. Together the top 5 percent own almost two-thirds of US private wealth. The distribution of stock market wealth (which includes direct ownership of stock shares and indirect ownership through mutual funds, trusts, IRAs, Keogh plans, 401(k) plans, and other retirement accounts) is also disparate: the top 1 percent own 38.2 percent while the 90–99 percent owns 43 percent. The bottom 60 percent own just 2.5 percent. Together the top 10 percent own over 82 percent of stock market wealth, a figure that has hardly changed in the past 20 years. Economic Policy Institute, State of Working America, 2011, http://stateofworkingamerica.org/, accessed February 17, 2012.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Susan George, Whose Crises? Whose Future: Towards a Greener, Fairer, Richer World (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 6–8.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    William I. Robinson, A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 37.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 40–41.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Economist Ha-Joon Chang refutes the claim that neoliberalism has created economic growth and reduced poverty in Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Cartographies of Struggle,” Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, ed. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 11–13, 38.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    David Rothkopf, Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), xiv–xv.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Beverly W. Harrison, “The Role of Social Theory in Religious Social Ethics: Reconsidering the Case for Marxian Political Economy,” in Carol S. Robb, ed., Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), 78. Harrison does not discuss Niebuhr’s critique of communism. She argues that Marx never developed a theory of communism. Harrison is an advocate of economic democracy.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Salvatore Babones, “The Other 99%: How the US Compares,” Inequality News (December 3, 2011). See http://www.ips-dc.org/blog/the_other_99_percent_how _the_us_compares, accessed February 3, 2012. See also Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011).Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Single female-headed families have the lowest median family income ($29,220), and the biggest drop in income of any group between 2007 and 2010 (2.8 percent). “Married couples with the wife in the paid labor force have the highest: ($87,485); their income dropped 1.3%. The lowest drop in income (0.6%) was for “married couples with the wife not in the paid labor force”; median income was $48, 858 (Economic Policy Institute, State of Working America, 2011).Google Scholar
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    Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: From Class to location, From Proletarians to Migrants, The World Bank, Policy Research Paper 5280 (September 2011), 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 32.
    Scott Nova and Isaac Shapiro, Polishing Apple: Fair Labor Association Gives Foxconn and Apple Undue Credit for Labor Rights Progress, EPI Briefing Paper #352 (November 8, 2012), 10.Google Scholar
  15. See the first person report from Jay Greene, “Riots, Suicides and Other Issues in Foxconn’s iPhone Factories” (September 25, 2012), http://news.cnet.com/8301–13579_3–57515968–37/riots-suicides-and-other -issues-in-foxconns-iphone-factories/Google Scholar
  16. 36.
    Jenny Wai-ling Chen, “Gender and Global Labor Organizing: Migrant Women Workers of Garment Industry in South China,” Paper presented at a conference hosted by Sweatshop Watch and supported by the Marianas Fund of the Tides Foundation, May 8–9, 2005, author’s files.Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 405.Google Scholar
  18. 41.
    See Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London: Verso, 2007) for an astute account of the global explosion of slums.Google Scholar
  19. 42.
    Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005), 16–17.Google Scholar
  20. 44.
    Lourdes Beneria, Gender, Development, and Globalization (New York: Routledge, 2003), 151.Google Scholar
  21. 45.
    Ann Ferguson, “Feminist Perspectives on Class and Work,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2010), http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-class/, accessed January 25, 2012. My discussion of these interests draws on Ann Ferguson; see my essay Pamela K. Brubaker, “Sisterhood, Solidarity and Feminist Ethics,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 9.1–2 (1993): 53–65.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    Jane L. Collins, Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 168–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 47.
    Jody Heymann, Forgotten Families: Ending the Global Crisis Confronting Children and Working Families in the Global Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 189–190.Google Scholar
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    Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild, Global Women: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003), 8.Google Scholar
  25. 51.
    U. Thara Srinivasan, Susan P. Carey, Eric Hallstein, Paul A. T. Higgins, Amber C. Kerr, Laura E. Koteen et al., “The Debt of Nations and the Distribution of Ecological Impacts from Human Activities,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105.5 (February 5, 2008), 1768–1770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 52.
    Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough? (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992). There is a chart of these three classes at http://deoxy.org/korten_index.htm.Google Scholar
  27. 55.
    This statement, as well as documents from the AGAPE process, the Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology Project, and the Women and Global Economy Project are available at the WCC website, www.oikumene.org. They include policy proposals and alternatives. I have participated in some of the consultations of these projects. Also see Justice Not Greed, ed. Pamela Brubaker and Rogate Mshana (Geneva: WCC, 2010).Google Scholar

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© Joerg Rieger 2013

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