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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2014

Inequality and the fading of redistributive politics

Keith Banting & John Myles, eds. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2013; 480 pp; ISBN: 978-0-77482-599-3, cloth $95 CAD.

All advanced democracies are facing the pressures of globalization, technological change, and new family forms, which have had the effect of generating higher levels of inequality in market incomes. But governments are responding differently, often reflecting differences in their domestic politics. The politics of who gets what and why is at the core of this volume, the first to examine this question in an explicitly Canadian context. In Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics, leading political scientists, sociologists, and economists point to the failure of public policy to contain surging income inequality. In Canada, government programs are no longer offsetting the growth in inequality generated by the market, and society has become more unequal. The redistributive state is fading due to powerful forces that have reshaped the politics of social policy, including global economic pressures, ideological change, shifts in the influence of business and labour, changes in the party system, and the decline of equality-seeking civil society organizations. On one side, the organizations that speak for the economic interests of lower-income Canadians — mobilizing resources, expertise, and attention on their behalf — have been weakened. On the other side, changes in the distribution of power within our political institutions have made concerted action to tackle inequality more difficult. This volume demonstrates conclusively that action and inaction — policy change and policy drift — are at the heart of growing inequality. Governments have not responded energetically to the evidence and their indifference calls into question Canada’s record as a kinder, gentler nation.

Information made available by the publisher.