1st Edition

Long Lives Are for the Rich Aging, the Life Course, and Social Justice

By Jan Baars Copyright 2023
    374 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    374 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Long Lives Are for the Rich is the title of a silent ominous program that affects the lives of millions of people. In all developed countries disadvantaged and, especially, poor people die much earlier than the most advantaged. During these shorter lives they suffer ten to twenty years longer from disabilities or chronic disease. This does not happen accidentally: health inequalities – including those between healthy and unhealthy life styles – are mainly caused by social inequalities that are reproduced over the life course. This crucial function of the life course has become painfully visible during its neoliberal reorganization since the early 1980s. Studies about aging over the life course, from birth to death, show the inhumane consequences as people get older. In spite of the enormous wealth that has been piled up in the US for a dwindling percentage of the population, there has been growing public indifference about the needs of those in jobs with low pay and high stress, but also about citizens from a broad middle class who can hardly afford high quality education or healthcare. However, this ominous program affects all: recent mortality rates show that all Americans, including the rich, are unhealthier and dying earlier than citizens of other developed countries. Moreover, the underlying social inequalities are tearing the population apart with nasty consequences for all citizens, including the rich. Although the public awareness of the consequences has been growing, neoliberal policies remain tempting for the economic and political elites of the developed world because of the enormous wealth that is flowing to the top. All this poses urgent questions of social justice. Unfortunately, the predominant studies of social justice along the life course help to reproduce these inequalities by neglecting them. This book analyzes the main dynamics of social inequality over the life course and proposes a theory of social justice that sketches a way forward for a country that is willing to invest in its greatest resource: the creative potential of its population.

    Introduction. The neo-liberal turn against a supportive life course and the US as its tragic champion

    Chapter 1. From a supportive to an entrepreneurial organization of the life course

    Chapter 2. Long lives are for the Rich…until this backfires

    Chapter 3. Main forms and temporal dynamics of social inequality

    Chapter 4. Ageism as a form of social Inequality

    Chapter 5. Social inequality: from central concern to its marginalization

    Chapter 6. Theories about Social Justice and Equality over the Life Course: Looking away from Social Inequality

    Chapter 7. Social (In)equality over the Life Course: Pitfalls and Perspectives


    Jan Baars is Professor of Humanistic Gerontology at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of the Social Sciences and the Humanities at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Jan’s previously published books include Aging and the Art of Living and co-edited volumes Ageing, Meaning and Social Structure: Connecting Critical and Humanistic Gerontology; Aging, Globalization and Inequality; and Aging and Time: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.

    "With a compelling and rigorous critical lens, Jan Baars uncovers the humanly destructive effects of neoliberalism and its 'humanist' intellectual apologists. He demonstrates clearly how popular narratives of social science, philosophy and popular culture are logically and empirically flawed, and how they have served to legitimate neoliberalism’s rise and its continued expansion while naturalizing or otherwise ignoring and obscuring the harmful impact its policies have on individual life chances and aspirations."
    Dale Dannefer, Case Western University, author of Age and the Reach of the Sociological Imagination

    "This superb book illuminates, more clearly than any other, the profound relationships among capitalism, neoliberalism, poverty, inequality, and aging. Baars cuts through the misconceptions about healthy aging by showing how the very rich have exploited old people in the quest to accumulate capital. Through a wide range of data and other startling information, the book documents the ways that neoliberal policies prop up global capitalism but deeply hurt people as they age. As a sociologist and medical practitioner trying to care for old people, I often have faced the disastrous conditions that this book describes. But until reading the book, I never fully understood the political- economic sources of patients’ suffering. The book’s revelations point to a need for fundamental social transformation if we are serious about improving health and quality of life for people as they age."
    Howard Waitzkin, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Health Sciences, University of New Mexico

    "A bold and original critique of the impact of neo-liberal policies in widening inequalities and undermining social rights. Drawing on his commitment to critical scholarship and a passion for social justice, Jan Baars provides a comprehensive account of the way in which neo-liberal policies have drastically reduced security for the middle and working class in the US, and for disadvantaged older people in particular. He demonstrates how the experiences of older citizens provide a powerful illustration of the operation of social inequalities – and the way these shape health inequalities – over the life course. Jan Baars concludes his book by arguing for a new moral vision of the life course, one guided by considerations of social justice, equity, and mutual respect between citizens."
    Chris Phillipson, Professor of Sociology and Social Gerontology, University of Manchester