This book explores the relationship between wage policy, distribution of income, and ultimately how that distribution impacts on democratic theory. In doing so, it examines the types of policies that are critical to the maintenance of a sustainable democracy. Wage policy, long the domain of economists (particularly neoclassical economists whose focus has been their impact on labour markets and income distribution), has largely been ignored by democratic theorists. Levin-Waldman argues that because wage policy can shape overall income distribution, it has a significant effect on equality levels and is therefore core to democratic theory. Its potential to enhance individual autonomy, which is a necessary condition for democratic participation, is another reason why wage policy should be at the centre of democratic theory.
This book argues that the evolution in wage policy has paralleled economic transformations, which democratic theory has evolved to accommodate. Through a careful analysis of democratic theory and empirical analysis of the impact of wage policy on income distribution, this book concludes that wage policy is an important component in the maintenance of democratic society. A wage policy that raises the wages of those at the bottom can give workers more independence and power as they are placed on more equal footing with managers. This, in and of itself, can be a source of empowerment, effectively enhancing their autonomy. By doing so, workers feel less exploited and income inequality is reduced.
This significant contribution explores the meaning of democratic theory and how it has evolved along with the meaning and specific forms of wage policy, providing invaluable new insights into their connections. This book will be of interest to postgraduates and researchers in economics and political science, as well as policy practitioners interested in issues of income inequality or democratic theory.
‘For more than twenty years, Oren Levin-Waldman has conducted pioneering work, not only on minimum wages and wage contours, the earned income tax credit, and democratic theory, but also on the living-wage movement in the context of struggles over economic development and conceptions of citizenship. Wage Policy, Income Distribution, and Democratic Theory is the culmination of that work. Looking beyond the Great Recession, Levin-Waldman draws our attention to the equally serious Great Stagnation, a silent depression in wages that has gripped working families in the United States for decades. And he persuasively argues for a pragmatic solution: a combination of institutions and legislation—a wage policy—that can accelerate aggregate demand, boost employment, and spur economic development. But such a policy also has another, equally vital consequence: it can reduce income inequality in a way that enhances personal autonomy, gives meaning to the notion of personal responsibility, and fortifies democracy by strengthening opportunities for political and civic participation. In short, Levin-Waldman has put his finger on what may be the central domestic political issue of our time and the book deserves the widest possible audience in academic, practitioner, and policy circles’.
- Charles Whalen, Visiting Fellow, School of Industrial & Labor Relations, Cornell University, USA
1. Introduction 2. Democratic Theory 3. Evolution of Wage Policy 4. Post New Deal Era and the Demise of Wage Policy 5. New Living Wage Movement 6. Wage Policy for the Middle Class 7. Wage Policy and the Path Towards Democracy Bibliography