The Moral Psychology of Inequality and its Impact on Well-Being.
Alan Thomas (PI) (Philosophy, University of York)
Alfred Archer (PI) (Philosophy, Tilburg University)
Bart Engelen (PI) (Philosophy, Tilburg University)
Pundits, journalists and prominent academics declare income and wealth inequality to be one of the defining problems of our time. The empirical evidence is that inequality has deepened within (a range of) Western jurisdictions (even as it narrows internationally). There has been, in particular, a very striking increase in income and wealth inequality in the USA. One would expect a crisis of inequality to produce a crisis in well-being: but has it? This project subjects to critical scrutiny four attempts to theorize the connection between inequality and well-being. When diagnosing the problems with inequality, prominent political philosophers refer to key emotions such as envy, shame, and anxiety. Yet their specific claims about the impact of inequality on these emotions are rarely subjected to scrutiny from empirical psychology. Our goal is to assess these claims in the light of our best current empirical understanding of their nature and significance. In so doing we will draw together literatures – and researchers – currently artificially divided by disciplinary boundaries. We aim to bridge the gaps between the conceptual and empirical literature on well-being, psychological theorizing of the emotions and philosophical work on (in)equality, respect and status.