Historically, Latin America has been characterized by a high level of social inequality. Today, the region features a pronounced asymmetric distribution, access to and consumption of material resources. However, social inequality is rather complex, multi-dimensional and inter-sectional. Thus, while the conditions for the unequal distribution of land, income and wealth stay relevant for studying Latin American societies, it is increasingly necessary to look at transversal axes such as gender, ethnicity or opportunities for political participation. Lastly, social inequalities regularly create conflicts that often lead to deep political, social and ecological crises. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the depth of this issue: the crisis has led to high economic vulnerability and rising poverty while new millionaires fortified the nucleus of Latin American elites, increasing the concentration of wealth. Surprisingly, political and institutional attempts to regulate wealth and establish effective fiscal mechanisms that generate greater justice and social well-being, as well as measures to collectively face the challenges of the pandemic continue to be weak and insufficient.
To their credit, the social sciences have invented rigorous theoretical and methodological tools to delve into the different dimensions of social inequality. However, in recent decades, both in studies and in politics, studies have focused on poverty. In this context, it has been forgotten that inequality is a relational category and that therefore poverty is always connected to wealth: we hardly know about the mechanisms that ensure accumulation and wealth, and the relationships and structural arrangements that perpetuate it. On the other hand, the analytical-conceptual and methodological instruments seem to be insufficient to identify, operationalize and evaluate wealth and the social actors behind it.
The CALAS Laboratory of Knowledge “Confronting Social Inequalities: Perspectives on wealth and power” focuses, thus, on interdisciplinary studies on wealth and power, aiming to fill the theoretical-conceptual and methodological gap required for its study. For this purpose, three thematic axes have been proposed that allow a more systematic approach to this phenomenon. The topics researched in the Laboratory of Knowledge range from the political regulation of wealth, its configurations, limits and impacts, to the relationship between dominant sectors, power and appropriation of nature.
Perspectives on Wealth and Power