The politics of inequality: Why are governance systems not more responsive to the unequal distribution of income and wealth?

Starting from a theoretical framework that conceptualizes policy outcomes as the result of complex interactions between actors, institutions and discourses, the paper synthesizes global research on the politics of (re)distribution within democratic governance systems. Four questions are used to structure the surveyed material:  What factors shape preference formation with respect to distribution across different actors? What factors enable or constrain collective action aimed at generating demand for inequality reduction? How do actors with an interest in preserving inequality leverage influence differentials to capture the policy process?  How do institutions and discourses constrain the policy arena to limit the range of possible policy outcomes? As a synthesis of global research of politics of distribution, the paper is expected to serve as a conceptual springboard for context-specific analysis aimed at generating relevant governance reform agendas. In addition, the paper could be used in a more prospective way in the context of political transitions. It could, for instance, be used as the starting point of risk informed analysis aimed at identifying factors that may prevent democratic openings from delivering hoped-for social and economic justice results.