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Launch of "The New Egalitarianism"

  • Date(s)
    29 June 2005
  • Time
    6:00 p.m.
  • Location
    Old Theatre, London School of Economics

Policy Network, the London School of Economics and Political Science and Polity co-organised the official launch of The New Egalitarianism, edited by Anthony Giddens and Patrick Diamond. The event took the form of a public debate, with the contributors exploring rising challenges to social solidarity and social justice.
Tackling one of the most pressing issues currently facing centre-left governments – social inequality – The New Egalitarianism is the product of a series of meetings over the course of 2004 of Policy Network’s working group on Community and Inequality.

Speakers at the launch included:

    * Patrick Diamond, a special adviser in the British Prime Minister's Policy Unit
    * David Goodhart, the founder and editor of Prospect magazine
    * Edward Miliband, MP for Doncaster North and former advisor of Gordon Brown.
    * Anne Power, Professor of social policy at LSE and deputy director of LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE).

Professor Lord Giddens chaired the debate.

As a starting point, Ed Miliband emphasised the distinction between the necessity of markets on one hand and the acceptance of market outcomes on the other. After communism's demise, the left has widely agreed about the benefits markets have for economic prosperity. However, the outcomes generated are not always socially just.

Therefore, Miliband recommended that we must both promote opportunity for those in society who have been left out and reduce outcome inequalities. Economic success is a necessary part of a prosperous society but this should not mean the disregard for economic and social responsibilities towards the less well off. Addressing inequality does matter because unchecked market outcomes pose a threat to social solidarity as well as to the wellbeing of the less fortunate.

Robert Walker's contribution to the debate highlighted the new approach to studying poverty and inequality that has recently become possible: being able to track individual circumstances over time has transformed our understanding of the meaning and dynamics of poverty, as well as the policy options available that could be effective in reducing inequalities.

It is now a fact of modern life that only a minority of people will be in poverty for long periods of time; rather, a greater number of people would experience short spells of poverty. We must, however, be aware of the 'carousel effect' so typical of industrialized countries like Britain and the US: a large part of those who manage to escape from poverty are very likely to fall back again.

In terms of policy, this means solutions should be concentrated not exclusively on those already in poverty but also on those above but near the poverty line in order to prevent them from falling below it.  

Focusing on urban poverty in advanced economies, Anne Power explained more specifically the historical patterns by which inequality came about in city areas as a result of rapid industrialisation. She reminded us that even in countries where income inequalities have been kept to a minimum by the welfare state, the number of deprived areas within cities is steadily increasing.

She also made it clear that that few policy initiatives have succeeded in tackling the problem in very poor ares. She warned that not enough of these programmes engage constructively  with the communities who are the subject of such public interventions.

Finally, David Goodhart talked about the two 'progressive dilemmas' the centre left is now facing. The first is based on the argument that the more diverse members of a society become, the more strained will be our support for the welfare state, which heavily relies on a sense of mutual belonging. The second issue relates to national citizenship as a notion of exclusivity. For Goodhart, for the new egalitarianism to flourish in advanced economies, the collective sense of 'we' must be strengthened.

The book launch took place on Wednesday, June 29, at 6pm at the London School of Economics, Old Theatre, Houghton Street, London.

The New Egalitarianism by Anthony Giddens and Patrick Diamond is published by Polity Press in June 2005.

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