Thursday, 28 March 2019

Trade Unions and the Politics of Inequality

Lecture by Jonas Pontusson, University of Geneva

Discussant: Macartan Humphreys
Moderated by Swen Hutter

While union decline has constituted a pervasive trend across advanced capitalist countries over the last 20-30 years, union membership has held up reasonably well among white-collar professionals. In many countries, occupational unions have gained ground relative to broader (sectoral or general) unions. Jonas Pontusson will explore the political consequences of these developments, focusing on working-class support for mainstream Left parties, the effects of unionization on middle-class support for redistributive policies, and income/class bias in the responsiveness of elected politicians to citizens’ policy preferences.

Jonas Pontusson joined the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Geneva in 2010 following professorships at Princeton and Cornell. Alongside his research on the comparative politics of inequality and redistribution, he is currently directing an ERC project that explores how rising income and wealth inequality affects democratic politics (

Macartan Humphreys is director of the research unit Institutions and Political Inequality at the WZB and a professor of Political Science at Columbia University.

Swen Hutter is Lichtenberg-Professor in Political Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin and Vice Director of the Center for Civil Society Research at the Berlin Social Science Center WZB.


The event is part of the lecture series Civil Society and Political Conflict, organized by the Center for Civil Society Research.