front cover of Unequal City
Unequal City
Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice
Carla Shedd is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Columbia University.
Russell Sage Foundation, 2015
Chicago has long struggled with racial residential segregation, high rates of poverty, and deepening class stratification, and it can be a challenging place for adolescents to grow up. Unequal City examines the ways in which Chicago’s most vulnerable residents navigate their neighborhoods, life opportunities, and encounters with the law. In this pioneering analysis of the intersection of race, place, and opportunity, sociologist and criminal justice expert Carla Shedd illuminates how schools either reinforce or ameliorate the social inequalities that shape the worlds of these adolescents.

Shedd draws from an array of data and in-depth interviews with Chicago youth to offer new insight into this understudied group. Focusing on four public high schools with differing student bodies, Shedd reveals how the predominantly low-income African American students at one school encounter obstacles their more affluent, white counterparts on the other side of the city do not face. Teens often travel long distances to attend school which, due to Chicago’s segregated and highly unequal neighborhoods, can involve crossing class, race, and gang lines. As Shedd explains, the disadvantaged teens who traverse these boundaries daily develop a keen “perception of injustice,” or the recognition that their economic and educational opportunities are restricted by their place in the social hierarchy.

Adolescents’ worldviews are also influenced by encounters with law enforcement while traveling to school and during school hours. Shedd tracks the rise of metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and pat-downs at certain Chicago schools. Along with police procedures like stop-and-frisk, these prison-like practices lead to distrust of authority and feelings of powerlessness among the adolescents who experience mistreatment either firsthand or vicariously. Shedd finds that the racial composition of the student body profoundly shapes students’ perceptions of injustice. The more diverse a school is, the more likely its students of color will recognize whether they are subject to discriminatory treatment. By contrast, African American and Hispanic youth whose schools and neighborhoods are both highly segregated and highly policed are less likely to understand their individual and group disadvantage due to their lack of exposure to youth of differing backgrounds.

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Unequal Thailand
Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power
Edited by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker
National University of Singapore Press, 2015
Extreme inequalities in income,wealth and power lie behind Thailand’s political turmoil. What are the sources of this inequality?  Why does it persist, or even increase when the economy grows? How can it be addressed?

         The contributors to this important study—Thai scholars, reformers and civil servants—shed light on the many dimensions of inequality in Thailand, looking beyond simple income measures to consider land ownership, education, finance, business structures and politics. The contributors propose a series of reforms in taxation, spending and institutional reform that can address growing inequality.

        Inequality is among the biggest threats to social stability in Southeast Asia, and this close study of a key Southeast Asian country will be relevant to regional policy-makers, economists and business decision-makers, as well as students of oligarchy and inequality more generally.  

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Universal Emancipation
Race beyond Badiou
Elisabeth Paquette
University of Minnesota Press, 2020

A vital and timely contribution to the growing scholarship on the political thought of Alain Badiou

Is inattention to questions of race more than just incidental to Alain Badiou’s philosophical system? Universal Emancipation reveals a crucial weakness in the approach to (in)difference in political life of this increasingly influential French thinker. With white nationalist movements on the rise, the tensions between commitments to universal principles and attention to difference and identity are even more pressing. 

Elisabeth Paquette’s powerful critical analysis demonstrates that Badiou’s theory of emancipation fails to account for racial and racialized subjects, thus attenuating its utility in thinking about freedom and justice. The crux of the argument relies on a distinction he makes between culture and politics, whereby freedom only pertains to the political and not the cultural. The implications of this distinction become evident when she turns to two examples within Badiou’s theory: the Négritude movement and the Haitian Revolution. According to Badiou’s 2017 book Black, while Négritude is an important cultural movement, it cannot be considered a political movement because Négritude writers and artists were too focused on particularities such as racial identity. Paquette argues that Badiou’s discussion of Négritude mirrors that of Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1948 essay “Black Orpheus” that has been critiqued by leading critical race theorists. Second, prominent Badiou scholar Nick Nesbitt claims that the Haitian Revolution could only be considered political if its adherents had shifted their focus away from race. However, Paquette argues that not only was race a central feature of this revolution but also that the revolution ought to be understood as a political emancipation movement.

Paquette also moves beyond Badiou, drawing on the groundbreaking work of Sylvia Wynter to offer an alternative framework for emancipation. She juxtaposes Badiou’s use of universality as indifference to difference with Wynter’s pluri-conceptual theory of emancipation, emphasizing solidarity over indifference. Paquette then develops her view of a pluri-conceptual theory of emancipation, wherein particular identities, such as race, need not be subtracted from a theory of emancipation.


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Unsustainable Inequalities
Social Justice and the Environment
Lucas Chancel
Harvard University Press, 2020

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

A hardheaded book that confronts and outlines possible solutions to a seemingly intractable problem: that helping the poor often hurts the environment, and vice versa.

Can we fight poverty and inequality while protecting the environment? The challenges are obvious. To rise out of poverty is to consume more resources, almost by definition. And many measures to combat pollution lead to job losses and higher prices that mainly hurt the poor. In Unsustainable Inequalities, economist Lucas Chancel confronts these difficulties head-on, arguing that the goals of social justice and a greener world can be compatible, but that progress requires substantial changes in public policy.

Chancel begins by reviewing the problems. Human actions have put the natural world under unprecedented pressure. The poor are least to blame but suffer the most—forced to live with pollutants that the polluters themselves pay to avoid. But Chancel shows that policy pioneers worldwide are charting a way forward. Building on their success, governments and other large-scale organizations must start by doing much more simply to measure and map environmental inequalities. We need to break down the walls between traditional social policy and environmental protection—making sure, for example, that the poor benefit most from carbon taxes. And we need much better coordination between the center, where policies are set, and local authorities on the front lines of deprivation and contamination.

A rare work that combines the quantitative skills of an economist with the argumentative rigor of a philosopher, Unsustainable Inequalities shows that there is still hope for solving even seemingly intractable social problems.


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Unveiling Inequality
A World-Historical Perspective
Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz
Russell Sage Foundation, 2009
Despite the vast expansion of global markets during the last half of the twentieth century, social science still most often examines and measures inequality and social mobility within individual nations rather than across national boundaries. Every country has both rich and poor populations making demands—via institutions, political processes, or even conflict—on how their resources will be distributed. But shifts in inequality in one country can precipitate accompanying shifts in another. Unveiling Inequality authors Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz and Timothy Patrick Moran make the case that within-country analyses alone have not adequately illuminated our understanding of global stratification. The authors present a comprehensive new framework that moves beyond national boundaries to analyze economic inequality and social mobility on a global scale and from a historical perspective. Assembling data on patterns of inequality in more than ninety-six countries, Unveiling Inequality reframes the relationship between globalization and inequality within and between nations. Korzeniewicz and Moran first examine two different historical patterns—"High Inequality Equilibrium" and "Low Inequality Equilibrium"—and question whether increasing equality, democracy, and economic growth are inextricably linked as nations modernize. Inequality is best understood as a complex set of relational interactions that unfold globally over time. So the same institutional mechanisms that have historically reduced inequality within some nations have also often accentuated the selective exclusion of populations from poorer countries and enhanced high inequality equilibrium between nations. National identity and citizenship are the fundamental contemporary bases of stratification and inequality in the world, the authors conclude. Drawing on these insights, the book recasts patterns of mobility within global stratification. The authors detail the three principal paths available for social mobility from a global perspective: within-country mobility, mobility through national economic growth, and mobility through migration. Korzeniewicz and Moran provide strong evidence that the nation where we are born is the single greatest deter-mining factor of how we will live. Too much sociological literature on inequality focuses on the plight of "have-nots" in wealthy nations who have more opportunity for social mobility than even the average individual in nations perennially at the bottom of the wealth distribution scale. Unveiling Inequality represents a major paradigm shift in thinking about social inequality and a clarion call to reorient discussions of economic justice in world-historical global terms.

front cover of Urban Inequality
Urban Inequality
Evidence From Four Cities
Alice O'Connor
Russell Sage Foundation, 2001
Despite today's booming economy, secure work and upward mobility remain out of reach for many central-city residents. Urban Inequality presents an authoritative new look at the racial and economic divisions that continue to beset our nation's cities. Drawing upon a landmark survey of employers and households in four U.S. metropolises, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles, the study links both sides of the labor market, inquiring into the job requirements and hiring procedures of employers, as well as the skills, housing situation, and job search strategies of workers. Using this wealth of evidence, the authors discuss the merits of rival explanations of urban inequality. Do racial minorities lack the skills and education demanded by employers in today's global economy? Have the jobs best matched to the skills of inner-city workers moved to outlying suburbs? Or is inequality the result of racial discrimination in hiring, pay, and housing? Each of these explanations may provide part of the story, and the authors shed new light on the links between labor market disadvantage, residential segregation, and exclusionary racial attitudes. In each of the four cities, old industries have declined and new commercial centers have sprung up outside the traditional city limits, while new immigrant groups have entered all levels of the labor market. Despite these transformations, longstanding hostilities and lines of segregation between racial and ethnic communities are still apparent in each city. This book reveals how the disadvantaged position of many minority workers is compounded by racial antipathies and stereotypes that count against them in their search for housing and jobs. Until now, there has been little agreement on the sources of urban disadvantage and no convincing way of adjudicating between rival theories. Urban Inequality aims to advance our understanding of the causes of urban inequality as a first step toward ensuring that the nation's cities can prosper in the future without leaving their minority residents further behind. A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality

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