HFIK03733U  FILO, Module 4:Contemporary Philosophical Discussion: Accumulation, Inequalities and Democracy

Volume 2015/2016

Master in Philosophy


The course will be about the recent works in economics that demonstrate that wealth have been quickly accumulating (Piketty 2014) and that inequalities have been on the rise (Stiglitz 2013) in most of countries since 1970’s. The course will engage five set of questions.

  1. The first set of questions is about empirical dimensions of capital accumulation and rising inequalities: which inequalities have increased? Where? Why? This will constitute the introduction to the seminar on which the more normative parts will be build.

  2. The second set of questions is a necessary step towards a critique of capital accumulation and inequalities: how to justify inequalities? Two main arguments will be evaluated: inequalities are justified because either they promote efficiency (‘trickle-down economics’) or they traduce individual merit (or an original entitlement),

  3. The third set of issues is a direct reply to the second point: why accumulation and inequalities are morally problematic? The issue will be discussed in four direction: what does equality mean? What is material equality? What is relational equality and how asymmetry in this domain may induce domination? Is there any instrumental value to equality?

  4. The fourth set of issues is properly political: which risks accumulation and inequalities represent for democracies? Often arguments in favor of equality are based on the negative consequences of accumulation and rising inequalities, in particular for democratic regimes.

  5. Finally, the seminar will address the polemical question asked by Andrew Sayer: can we afford the rich? This will represent an open discussion about the distribution of wealth in democratic societies and the conditions for social cooperation.

Learning Outcome

Module 4: Contemporary Philosophical Discussion: HFIK03731E

Preliminary Plan (Subject to Change)

  1. Accumulation and Rising Inequalities in Industrialized Nations: Facts and Tendencies

  2. Defenses of Inequality: Merit and Efficiency

  3. Equality of What? Resources, Welfare, Status

  4. Material Equality: Egalitarianism, Prioritarianism and Sufficientarianism

  5. Relational Equality and Domination

  6. Instrumental Value of Equality: Political Stability, Social Cooperation, Economic Efficiency

  7. Can we afford the rich?


    Indicative Literature

    Bartels, Larry (2008). Unequal Democracy. Russell Sage Foundation

    Deaton, Angus (2013). The Great Escape: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality. Princeton University Press

    Dorling, Daniel (2010). Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persist. Policy Press

    Dworkin, Ronald (2002). Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality. Harvard University Press

    Pettit, Philip (1997). Republicanism. Oxford University Press

    Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twentieth-First Century. Harvard University Press

    Rawls, John (1971), A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press

    Sayer, Andrew (2014), Why We Can’t Afford the Rich. The Policy Press

    Stiglitz, Joseph (2013). The Price of Inequality. W.W. Norton

    Temkin, Larry (1993). Inequality. Oxford University Press

    Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett (2011). The Spirit Level. Penguin

    Wolff, Jonathan and Avner De-Shalit (2007). Disadvantage. Oxford University Press

The seminar will be based on active participation, which means that students are expected to substantially participate to the seminar by discussing, presenting texts, participating to group activities. In addition, students are expected to regularly read the texts before coming to the class.
Type of assessment
The exam will be conducted in English

Eksamenssproget følger undervisningssproget. Det
vil dog efter aftale med underviser være muligt at aflægge eksamen på dansk
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Course Preparation
  • 367,5
  • Total
  • 409,5