Social Inequality in the Descent Society

Social Inequality in the Descent Society
by Oliver Nachtwey and Gerrit Bartels, June 2016

The elevator effect is not true any more. This changed from the 1990s. People no longer move up together. A society of descent, precariousness and polarization has come out of the society of ascent. The metaphor of the escalator describes this process. Ascents and descents have a collective and an individual dimension.

The gainful life has lost its former structure; careers and vocational paths have become intermittent.

Normative insecurities grow in a society that still sees itself as an ascent society where life in “reality” is no longer looking up. Many probably know the experience from their childhood of running up a down escalator. That seldom worked. In the descent society, many people constantly see themselves on a down escalator. They have to run up to keep their position.

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