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The Deserving Rich - A Mulit-Disciplinary Analysis of the (Re-)Production of (German)Wealth

The Deserving Rich

The Deserving Rich

2023-2027 | Free University Berlin and Technical University Dortmund | financed by Volkswagen Foundation |

“The Deserving Rich - A Multi-Disciplinary Analysis of the (Re-)Production of (German) Wealth” is an interdisciplinary research project in Germany involving the Free University of Berlin and the Technical University of Dortmund.

The (re-)production of wealth and wealth inequality in Germany are the main topics of this interdisciplinary research project. The researchers focus in particular on the German inheritance tax and economic elites and investigate discourses and narratives on deserved and underserved wealth in Germany, combining thereby in an interdisciplinary manner socio-political, philosophical-analytical, and empirical approaches. The project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation with 800.000 euros, will run for four years.

The research team consists of the philosophers Prof. Dr. Stefan Gosepath (ree University Berlin, Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” - SCRIPTS) and Prof. Dr. Christian Neuhäuser (Technical University of Dortmund), the political scientist and economist Prof. Dr. Philipp Lepenies, the political scientist Dr. Martyna Berenika Linartas (FU Berlin, Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” - SCRIPTS), and the two doctoral students Laura Opolka (TU Dortmund) and Isabella Pfusterer (FU Berlin).

“Extreme wealth inequality is a threat to liberal democracies, the meritocratic principle, and our social cohesion,” says Stefan Gosepath. According to the researchers, a better understanding of the (re)production of wealth also requires a closer look at its justification in general as well as the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. The research team asks about legitimization and introduces the concept of the “deserving rich” – in analogy to Georg Simmel's analysis of the “deserving poor”. The central question is: How can the different narratives of the “deserving rich” explain the (re)production of wealth in Germany?

Germany serves as an empirical case study to investigate the genesis of wealth. The German inheritance volume amounts to around 400 billion euros per year. “This horrendous sum leaves no doubt that we can speak of an ‘inheritance wave’ in Germany,” says Martyna Berenika Linartas. Given its social significance for liberal democracies, this development needs to be given greater attention both academically and in public debates.