Friday, December 13, 2013

Status hierarchies and income inequality

Here's another Rifkin article from 2010. The following short excerpt shows the stark difference between status hierarchies inherent to the capitalistic Enlightenment paradigm, which focuses on individual self-reliance, and democracies that express empathy for all. He even notes that the more empathetic a society is the more democratic. To wit, northern Europe. The more individualistic, the less democratic and the more totalitarian and feudal. To wit, the US. No surprise then that "income inequality and relative poverty in the United States are among the highest in the OECD and have substantially increased over the past decades" (see this OECD report).

"Status hierarchies are, of course, designed to create inequalities. Status is about rankings and the claiming of authority over others. Every society establishes various boundaries of exclusion. A highly stratified society generally is low on empathetic consciousness because such societies are segmented between so many status categories that the ability to empathize beyond one's own group, both up and down the hierarchy, is limited.

"The ability to recognize oneself in the other and the other in oneself is a deeply democratizing experience. Empathy is the soul of democracy. It is an acknowledgment that each life is unique, unalienable, and deserving of equal consideration in the public square. The evolution of empathy and the evolution of democracy have gone hand in hand throughout history. The more empathic the culture, the more democratic its values and governing institutions. The less empathic the culture, the more totalitarian its values and governing institutions."

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