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The Wealth Paradox: Economic Prosperity and…

The Wealth Paradox: Economic Prosperity and the Hardening of Attitudes

by Frank Mols

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Keeping Ahead of the Joneses

The wealth paradox is that the rich, far from being more lenient, generous and welcoming in prosperous times, actually harden their anti-immigration stance. We all agree the poor are anti-immigrant because they consider outsiders unfair competition for scarce resources. But this attitude of the wealthy is possibly surprising. (The xenophobic right’s rise all over the democratic world should however, make it fairly plain for all to see.)

At bottom, it is about money. The wealthy, having farther to fall, are more wary of anything that might cause them to lose their place in society, Mols & Jetten say. So even in times of prosperity, the rich are supposedly skittish. Our current period of aggravated inequality, for example, has some of the rich wondering what’s to become of them. It seems while the poor suffer from little hope, the rich suffer from unbounded insecurity.

The authors spend a great deal of effort using other studies to bolster their position, but acknowledge the literature is not particularly supportive. They contend we spend ten times as much ink on relative deprivation (the poorer) than relative gratification (the wealthier). So the book is a call to examine attitudes of the wealthier more often and more deeply.

It is thorough, but dry: purely academic. It does not follow a wealthy family or ask for opinion. My difficulty with The Wealth Paradox is that it makes no sense when put in perspective. If the poor always hate immigrants, and the wealthy hate immigrants in downturns, unstable times (political uncertainty, war, revolution, recession, austerity), periods of high inequality as well as in prosperous times – then what’s left? After 300 years of capitalism, we must all hate all immigration all the time. The pendulum never swings back in Mols & Jetten’s scenario. ( )
  DavidWineberg | Mar 5, 2017 |
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