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Widespread recognition that economic inequality has been growing for forty years in most of the developed world, and in fact has tended to grow across most of the history of modern economies, shows that the period 1945-1973, when inequality of wealth and income shrank, was a marked anomaly in historical experience. At the time, however, the anomalous period of equality seemed to vindicate a long history of optimism about economic life: that growth would overcome meaningful scarcity and usher in an egalitarian and humanistic period that could almost qualify as post-economic. This has not been the experience of the last four decades. In this intellectual history of the anomalous period, we trace the main lines of that optimism and its undoing.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Income distribution, Equality, Democracy--Economic aspects, Distributive justice