Abstract: Upward social mobility is a promise of modernity, but as a zero-sum game it includes potential for social conflict. Economic growth could moderate conflicting social aspirations for a long time, therefore upward mobility was understood universally. As a result of the lack of growth, the conflictual nature of upward mobility comes more to the fore. The lecture explicates various processes and institutionalizations that can moderate the zero-sum character, and examines possible changes in the desire for social advancement under conditions of a lack of growth in a negative scenario which can already be observed in rudimentary form in the present. Finally, it is suggested to decouple the modern promise of improving the quality of life from its linking to upward mobility, but without ignoring the normative claims for social advancement in a society characterized by social inequality.
Keywords: upward social mobility; social inequality; degrowth; social conflict; “good life”
This media entry was a contribution to the special session “Degrowth and social inequality: Eating the rich or governing the poor?” at the 4th International Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014.