Cover: Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities: A Study of Fifty Democracies, 1948–2020, from Harvard University PressCover: Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities in HARDCOVER

Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities

A Study of Fifty Democracies, 1948–2020

Product Details


$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674248427

Publication Date: 12/14/2021

Academic Trade

656 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

250 illus., 28 tables


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This book is a breakthrough in the existing literature on the politics of social inequality. Not merely is the analysis intensively data-based, it goes beyond the usual confines of a small number of western democracies to a set of fifty democracies (or semi-democracies) in different continents over many decades. The analysis throughout is highly sensible, informative, and insightful.—Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley

This monumental book presents the first international and historical analysis of political cleavages and of their interplay with inequality. This is a must-read book for anyone wanting to understand electoral politics in today’s democracies—the rise of ‘identity politics’ in some countries but not others, and the multiplicity of possible futures for the dynamic of inequality.—Gabriel Zucman, University of California, Berkeley

This impressive book will rapidly become the central reference point for systematically charting trends in voting alignment across the globe. By including nations from the global South alongside established liberal democracies, Gethin and his colleagues challenge endemic Western biases in political research and reveal the systematic ways that inequality and credentialism have redrawn voting patterns over recent decades. Gethin and his coauthors offer exactly the kind of big picture perspective which political activists and campaigners, as much as social scientists, will hugely appreciate.—Mike Savage, author of The Return of Inequality

This ambitious collection tackles a set of timely questions about the interplay among inequality levels and trends, political preferences and electoral behavior, and voters’ demographic and economic characteristics. Ideally, the volume will land in the hands of diverse audiences concerned with political polarization and social inequalities—including multidisciplinary social scientists, political actors, and social activists.—Janet C. Gornick, Director, Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Here is a welcome throwback to the ambitious political sociology of the mid-twentieth century. The analyses are solid and the geographical range is appealingly broad. The authors’ portraits of shifting social cleavages raise fascinating questions about the nature and implications of ‘class politics’ in the contemporary world.—Larry M. Bartels, Vanderbilt University

Combining ambition with humility, this volume explores cross-national and temporal variation in the structure of political cleavages with an eye to explaining the conditions under which income and wealth inequality becomes a topic of political contestation (or not). Refreshingly, the volume sidesteps longstanding debates among political scientists and illustrates how looking for patterns in macro data can yield new insights. Harmonizing election surveys from fifty countries, the database assembled by Piketty and his collaborators itself represents a major contribution.—Jonas Pontusson, University of Geneva

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