The challenge of inequality

il Mulino 1/2023

On inequality and the Left: why coalition politics favours social democratic solutions; how a left revival hinges on inclusive growth; and whether the root problem may not be inequality but the weak state.

‘What has happened to the Left?’ asks il Mulino. On paper, social democratic parties may still be social democratic – but what’s actually going on in politics? The Italian journal looks beyond the country’s borders for comparison: the future of German social democracy; the French Left in the Macron era; the Iberian exception in Spain and Portugal; the return of the Balkan Left; Russia without the Left; the disappearance of the Israeli Left.


While focussing on problems, il Mulino also offers solutions. In his book La sfida delle disuguaglianza. Contro il declino della sinistra (‘The Challenge of Inequality: Counteracting the Left’s decline’), Carlo Trigilia has explained how the Left can counter increasing inequality within western democracies. He considers endogenous institutions to be at the root of social inequalities and sees economic growth as a hinderance when poorly redistributed.

Colin Crouch, Lucio Baccaro and Michele Salvati respond to Trigilia, who in turn comments on their arguments. Crouch, the political scientist who coined the term ‘post-democracy’, takes issue with Trigilia’s suggestion that ‘the more distinct and specific the representation of certain interests assumed by parties, as in deliberative democracies, the fewer their voters will be.’ Crouch counters that ‘deliberative democracy favours … new coalitions, which once formed, favour the proponents of equality’.

Economist Baccaro agrees with Trigilia ‘that the relaunch of inclusive economic growth and the rebirth of the Left are closely associated’. According to Baccaro, ‘neither one nor the other will exist without critically re-examining certain sacred cows, including single currency constraints’. He proposes that a ‘Left of the people has to attract the middle ground, those weakened and made precarious, starting with raising income to reduce inequality.’

In response to economist Michele Salvati, who characterizes Italy as ‘a weak and poorly organized state incapable of confronting the challenge of inequality other than through propaganda,’ Trigilia writes: ‘The central problem that politics and the Left in particular must confront isn’t inequality but the political weakness and the inefficiency of the state.’

Also: An interview with Luciana Castellina (b.1929), former communist, journalist and MEP, on her life and the role of women in politics.

Published 10 May 2023
Original in English
First published by Eurozine

Contributed by il Mulino © Eurozine



Subscribe to know what’s worth thinking about.

Related Articles

Cover for: She-cession and women’s comeback

The responsibility for family and home, often while holding down a job, is still largely considered women’s work. When crises strike and recession looms, those in precarious jobs tend to suffer the most. In Italy, the burden of economic fallout has fallen on female shoulders. But women’s acumen is behind a turnaround.

Cover for: Water: From scarcity to equity

Conventional market-led solutions to water scarcity in the Arab Mediterranean, above all mega-projects such as dams, support state agendas and reinforce inequalities in access. Water wars are not inevitable but the result of bad management.