Globalization and inequality: Precarious lives in Utah

The concurring trends of deepening globalization and increasing inequality permeate all aspects of our lives. Globalization has enabled unparalleled technological advances and economic growth. At the same time, inequality has increased dramatically. Our societies are polarized: the super-rich co-exist with a well-to-do professional class, and the rest struggle in the Neverland of big box stores and the gig economy. Many jobs do not provide a living wage or good benefits, and ever more people lead precarious lives: teetering on the edge of poverty, in weakening communities with fragmented identities.

This Praxis Lab challenges students to connect the broad and all-encompassing trends of deepening globalization and rising inequality to two local constituencies: immigrants in the Salt Lake Valley, and poor white Utahans beyond it. The many differences between these two groups – with respect to race, class, geography, legal status, and political party affiliation, among others – will allow us to examine the complex interactions between socio-economic and technological changes on the one hand, and the “populist” and nationalist upheavals of our time on the other. How does the global economy shape the everyday lives of these two groups, and how do those experiences shape their political orientations?

The Department of Economics at the University of Utah is organizing a conference on The Great Polarization: Economics, institutions and policies in the age of inequality. Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz will deliver the keynote address. Designed around this conference, the Praxis Lab will challenge students to engage its themes within the local context. Guest speakers and field trips during the Fall will expose us to local debates. In late November, we will begin discussions on ideas underpinning the Praxis Lab Project—which will in turn occupy us throughout Spring.

Faculty

Rudiger Lennart von Arnim, Ph.D.

Dr. von Arnim earned his PhD in economics at the New School for Social Research in New York, NY, in 2008. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics and is currently serving as the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Over the years, he has been closely involved with efforts to increase and improve undergraduate online course offerings. Dr. von Arnim teaches courses in the fields of macroeconomics, development and international economics, as well as online courses for International Economics and Intermediate Macroeconomics.

His research currently focuses on (1) the causes and consequences of inequality, specifically the precipitous decline in the fall of the share of income that accrues to employees; (2) the reasons for the slowdown in the rate of growth across a number of advanced countries; and (3) the macroeconomic effects of multilateral trade agreements.

Marcel Paret, Ph.D.

 Dr. Paret is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Utah, and a Senior Research Associate in the Center for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, he earned his PhD at the University of California-Berkeley, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Johannesburg. In 2017, Dr. Paret became the recipient of the 2016-2017 College of Social and Behavioral Science Superior Teaching Award.

His research focuses on the politics of economic insecurity, including how it is created and how economically marginalized groups respond to it, with emphasis on the United States and South Africa. He is currently finishing a book on the politics of local protest and community organizing in the impoverished townships and informal settlements around Johannesburg.