xroads-smRecent work in economics has established the contiguity between neoliberalism and the return of growing material inequality. One hundred people now own as much as half of humanity, five hundred as much as two thirds.

Starkest in Anglophone countries that undertook neoliberal reform earliest, rising income and wealth inequality are now evident globally and in many places have been compounded by cuts in government services used by people on low incomes. In Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty argues that on current trends inequality will soon become the most extreme since records began, outstripping that seen in the pre-war peak of the 1920s and the six-decade run that resulted in the development of socialism in the mid-nineteenth century.

Culture and social differentiation are closely linked in much cultural studies but what can we make of the pervasive ‘return to inequality’?

Correspondences between culture and class assumed in much earlier work have been problematized precisely in this same period of rising inequality and the development of our field. How can contemporary cultural studies contribute to understanding of inequality, the popular, everyday life and institutions without falling into the cul-de-sacs of cultural studies vs. political economy debates?

Notably, progressive economists such as Piketty argue against technological and economic determinist interpretations, and call on scholars in the humanities and social sciences to help explain the social and cultural conditions that allow those with wealth, plus newly augmented and largely self-regulating ‘supermanagers and superstars’ pull away from the rest. Meanwhile the rise of movements against inequality and the resurgence of grassroots socialism offer an opportunity to connect.

These panels are designed to foster reflection on culture and inequality from diverse perspectives. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • New elites
  • Labor, unemployment and income divergence
  • Fame, ordinary and extraordinary persons
  • Generational inequalities
  • Ideology and political and cultural capture
  • Managerialism and institutional inequalities
  • Mobility, migration and inequality
  • Uneven globalization and development
  • Protest movements and the resurgence of socialism
  • Material inequality, gender, race and diversity
  • Financialization, debt and consumer culture
  • Inequality, taste and cultural participation
  • Rights and material inequalities
  • Austerity and welfare reform
  • Inequality, media and popular culture

Organized by Lisa Adkins (Newcastle/Tampere) and Guy Redden (Sydney).

If you are interested in presenting in an inequality themed panel, please submit an abstract of 150 words to Guy Redden guy.redden@sydney.edu.au by 29 April.

Crossroads in Cultural Studies will be held at the University of Sydney, Australia, 14-17 December 2016. More info: http://crossroads2016.org/