The Political Economy of Wealth


  • Beginn: 22.11.2023
  • Ende: 23.11.2023
  • Ort: Cologne
The Political Economy of Wealth
We are interested in wealth both as a dependent and as an independent variable. How do policies and institutions impact the accumulation and concentration of wealth? And how does wealth concentration impact politics?

In relation to the former question, the conference focuses on what research has shown to be key determinants for top-end wealth inequality. This includes the relationship between large fortunes and political power; the politics of taxation; and the size and power of the wealth defense industry, notably asset managers and global accountancy firms. At the same time, despite its highly unequal distribution, wealth also impacts the political preferences of the middle classes. Here, we are interested in the effects of asset ownership, notably of housing and retirement assets, on households’ perceptions of inequality, political preferences, and electoral behavior. Finally, the conference addresses the question of how wealth concentration changes societies over the medium- to long term. What is the relevance of oligarchic ownership structures in politically important sectors, such as the media? How does this vary between liberal-democratic and authoritarian political systems? Here, broader historical and theoretical reflections can make an important contribution. How can we conceptualize societies in which wealth, and therefore opportunity and life outcomes, are highly unequally distributed, often across generations? Populist revolts, major wars, a global pandemic, and a dramatic escalation of the climate crisis – the decade since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Le capital au XXI siècle has seen more of Walter Scheidel’s four horsemen than almost anyone would have predicted. And yet, r has remained greater than g, and the concentration of wealth has continued largely unabated. How do we explain this pattern? And should we expect it to last, or are the return of inflation and the rise of interest rates harbingers of a regime shift? In order to answer these (big) questions, which invariably lead into interdisciplinary territory, this conference brings together leading scholars on the political economy of wealth from various disciplines. The conference is organized by Jens Beckert and Benjamin Braun.

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