Inequality and integration have been sociology's two key paradigms since the classics, associated with the names of Mar x and Durkheim and Europe's current economic crisis has forcefully reinvigorated their joint relevance. Above all, the debt crisis has fueled the wheel of social inequality: cash-starved states are further forced to cut back on public expenditures, to minimize the margin for redistribution and to raise new challenges for the integration policies addressing the emerging disparities.
At the same time, global environmental and demographic problems, intertwined with escalating migration pressure, tear at the texture of European and all Western societies. In particular, the unequal impact of climate change and the unequal distribution of population growth make migration and integration paramount public policy issues and a soaring source of social conflict. In principle, the inequalities engendered by these cascading processes are also an opportunity. They increase the diversity of society and can bring about innovation and growth. Our desire and ability for social integration depends, above all, on the ultimate balance between these advantages and disadvantages.
The chapters in the volume concentrate on the opportunities as well as the risks associated with these social changes from various angles. They are a handpicked set of outstanding contributions from the Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association that took place at the University of Bern, June 26-28, 2013.
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