This Year’s Topic


This year the topic of the SPS Summer Academy is Inequality and Solidarity in Europe. Since the financial crisis, rising levels of income and wealth inequality have received increasing popular attention. In public debates, growing inequalities within and between countries are considered as important driving forces behind the rise of populism all over Europe, Brexit, and the illiberal political turns in Hungary and Poland. All of this confronts the European Union (EU) with an existential crisis.

How do we conceptualize and measure rising inequality? Which inequalities have increased? Seemingly, inequalities between countries are falling at the global level, while inequality, especially, within advanced OECD countries have been on a steady rise. What do we know about the drivers of (changing) inequality? How does inequality affect social mobility? What variation do we observe across countries and among risk-groups and how can explain varied patterns? What are the limitations and even side effects of popular solutions to improving equality, such as increasing education and poverty alleviation?

Due to globalization, immigration and increasing participation of women in the labor market, organizations in modern societies face a dynamic environment that poses ever-changing pressures on their workplace arrangements. Considering that women’s participation in the labor market has increased, public opinion has changed, and that national-level initiatives like quotas have been imposed on female representation on corporate boards, one might expect that gender diversity in the workplace will have reached a fair representation of societal gender diversity by now. Is this the case? What are the underlying mechanisms of the current (lack of) gender diversity? And what are its implications for solidarity?

The intensity of early 21st century structural economic, technological and demographic change, affecting inequality, mobility, and citizens’ life chances and economic security, confronts policymakers with the imperative recalibration of national welfare states and the task of updating and redesigning policies as well as elaborating new principles of social justice. What is the scope for a successful transition towards a European welfare state fit for the purpose for post-industrial knowledge economy in ageing societies? Meanwhile, issues of work and welfare have become ever more intertwined with the Single Market and the European Monetary Union (EMU). In an incremental but transformative fashion, European integration has fundamentally recast the boundaries of national systems of social protection, constraining, on the one hand, the autonomy for domestic policy options, but, on the other, also opening opportunities for EU social policy complements to national welfare policies. Politically, however, electorates continue to hold national politicians accountable for socio-economic (mis-)fortune, not EU institutions. Can Europe’s unique ‘double commitment’ to social citizenship solidarity at the level of the nation-state and ever deeper economic integration on the European plain be rescued in the years ahead?

This year’s Summer Academy is devoted to discussing these questions. The content of the Summer Academy is organized around the three related topics of 1) Social stratification: gender, family, labour markets and mobility, 2) Political Theory of EU Solidarity, and 3) Welfare State Futures. Applicants to the Summer Academy should have a background and interest in one or several of these topics.