notes working group on complexity and inequality

(Public participation – social innovation and entrepreneurship. The Young Foundation).

        The topic of inequality is increasingly coming back. Partly because of the crisis.

        Book: Inequality and Growth.

        Now policy makers need input, so it is important what are the research needs.

        “How social complex systems leading to inequality”

        The risks of inequality: the potential for instability derived from inequality.

        Trends: the difference between the West and the East has decreased, while inequality within Europe has increased.

        Deborah Rogers –

        Castells: in cities, when inequalities are very large, to avoid or mitigate the risks of social unrest, social consumption provision


– Do our complex social systems lead to inequality?

– What is the degree of inequality that is acceptable?




        Functionalism versus Marxism.

        How to provide these public services, which criteria? – WHO: It’s not about providing public services, but changing the original conditions of people; not only the services, e.g., where you live, etc. (e.g. ‘Health for all 2000’). The welfare state needs to have a more holistic approach that only end-services.


        Strong reciprocity in providing public services, people have to do something to get these services according to their means and in a fair way.


        Christiane: how to define equality?


        Stefano: there is a degree of inequality, which can be measured, but it is also multi-dimensional; the slope and tail of the distribution may be different.


        Sugarscape model: simple cellular automata model with no intervention of humans that ends up with the conclusion that some few agents get all the sugar;


        Globalisation and inequality; increases the number of needs, but these new needs are or cannot be provided by the market, e.g., clean air.


        Popularity also follows power laws; so are not normal distributions.  


        Violence occurs when people are not able to discuss the own future with those that produce it. Inequality in the process –is a dialogic / procedural condition; the new very rich are now very difficult to track.


        The main problem is the global institutional design that creates larger inequalities.


        Me: three dimensions of inequality: 1. Of original conditions 2. Of process / procedural inequality, and of end-results. I think to focus on the latter can be can perverse.


        Case: crowdsourcing and the founding of the Obama campaign being funded by these methods.


        There are new emerging endogenous dynamics of self-organisation to deal with inequality and health / social needs.


        We should not pay so much attention at the lower part of the distribution than on the top part, so as to influence on that.



See the movies: “2012” –on the catastrophe in the US. “The Fifth Element”, Armageddon. – the rhetoric is to save the best of our species, but only the rich get to go on the survival boat. This narratives are important in influencing people’s minds in this issues.



        Positional goods: Fred Hirsch already in a book on the social costs of Growth (about 1980) said that growth in the advanced western depends on positional goods, and not meeting basic needs. But they are subject to their own tragedy.

        But could philanthropic actions become an efficient way to deal with global inequality if it became a positional good?

        It is important to look at what happened in the 30s that lead to the 2WW as it may be very similar to what may be happen in the present.






Questions for GSS in relation with inequality:


1.      What are the real scope and impact of private initiatives to deal with global inequalities? Perhaps not much, but also you may need a more ‘statist’ / state-base policies, regulatory approaches.

2.      To what extent inequality can be seen as a coordination problems and how this coordination can better be represented and improved via developing GSS tools and methods?

3.      Focus on particular cases that can be of use for GSS: Tax avoidance by multinationals, equality policies in Nordic countries, etc.

4.      Look at the role of alternative narratives in exposing inequalities (e.g., Urlich Beck of democratisation of risk, which is not true; the conditions area not the same)

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