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The Inequality Project

Global economic and geopolitical unrest in recent years has provoked a surge of public interest in the ethics of inequality. Indeed the various forms of social and economic inequality now animate popular movements and political parties across the developed and developing world, including Britain, India, and the United States. Yet notwithstanding the growing body of contributions from social scientists and political philosophers, remarkably little attention has been devoted to egalitarianism in the field of theological ethics.

The McDonald Centre is undertaking a three-year interdisciplinary research project investigating theological and ethical issues of inequality in the Anglo-American context. Among the central questions it seeks to address are:

  • Which forms of social and economic inequality warrant the closest ethical analysis and reflection?
  • Are unequal societies intrinsically unjust societies, or should inequality be assessed in terms of the injustices it is thought to create?
  • What distinctive contributions can theological ethicists make to the debate on inequality?

The Inequality Project builds on the Centre’s stated aim of bringing rigorous Christian reflection to bear on ethical issues of pressing public concern.  The core team of researchers comprises Edward David (Research Associate), James Orr (Postdoctoral Fellow), and Stuart Ramsay (Associate Fellow), but the project benefits significantly from a wide collaborative circle of theologians, economists, and public servants.  These include: 

  • Prof Sabina Alkire, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor in International Affairs at The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and Director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)
  • Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of the Mission and Public Affairs Division, Church of England
  • Sir Andrew Dilnot, C.B.E., Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, and Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority
  • Dr Donald Hay, former Head of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford
  • Prof Robin Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, and Director of Research at the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Canon Dr Edmund Newell, Principal of Cumberland Lodge and former Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral
  • Prof John Thanassoulis, Professor of Financial Economics, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Associate Member of the Oxford-Man Institute at the University of Oxford, and Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford

The project’s conclusions and recommendations aim both to initiate conversations on inequality among theological ethicists and to contribute not only to ongoing discussions in political philosophy and the social sciences, but also to the complex and increasingly fraught public-policy debates surrounding inequality in Britain and the United States.