Class in the 21st century: Asset inflation and the new logic of inequality

Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper*, Martijn Konings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

What becomes of class when residential property prices in major cities around the world accrue more income in a year than the average wage worker? This paper investigates the dynamic of combined wage disinflation and asset price inflation as a key to understanding the growth of inequality in recent decades. Taking the city of Sydney, Australia, as exemplary of a dynamic that has unfolded across the Anglo-American economies, it explains how residential property was constructed as a financial asset and how government policies helped to generate the phenomenal house price inflation and unequal capital gains of recent years. Proceeding in close conversation with Thomas Piketty's work on inequality and recent sociological contributions to the question of class, we argue that employment and wage-based taxonomies of class are no longer adequate for understanding a process of stratification in which capital gains, capital income and intergenerational transfers are preeminent. We conclude the paper by outlining a new asset-based class taxonomy which we intend to specify further in subsequent work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-572
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

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