Inequalities, Between Good and Bad Finance

Patrice Baubeau * Université Paris Nanterre, IDHES (Institutions et dynamiques historiques de l'économie et de la société).

Despite the persistent link between finance and inequality, established in very different contexts over the few thousand years of urban and monetary civilization, the nature of this link remains highly problematic. Is it a causality, the development of financial activities causing the rise of inequality? Or is it a simple correlation, the two phenomena basically arising from similar causes? We opt here for the second position, which does not mean that the financial tools and the rise of the financial professions cannot amplify the increase in inequalities, but rather that the latter finds its origin in social processes incorporating a strong political dimension. Better still, it highlights how, at least on certain occasions, financial techniques can contribute to social pacification - itself to be distinguished from progress towards equality. Thus, without falling into the ideological trap of an axiological or instrumental neutrality of finance, it seems to us that the capture of the latter by a dominant political group is more problematic than the nature of its activities.

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