Inequality as Entitlements over Labor

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Abstract

The modern study of economic inequality is based on the distribution of entitlements over goods and services. But social commentators at least since Rousseau have been concerned with a different aspect of economic inequality: that it implies that one person is entitled to command another person for their own personal ends. I call this inequality as entitlements over labour. I propose to measure entitlements over labour by calculating the extent to which top income groups can afford to buy the labour of others for the purpose of their personal consumption. Unlike standard inequality measures, this measure is not welfarist, but instead has its normative basis in relations of domination, hierarchy and social status between people. I estimate entitlements over labour in three high-inequality and two low-inequality countries and argue that inequality as entitlements over labour is socially and politically salient, capturing a side of inequality neglected by standard measures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSOCIO-ECONOMIC REVIEW
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2021

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