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Global South Powers in Transition

A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and South Africa


Edited By Deon Geldenhuys and Humberto González

Employing a novel collaborative transnational methodology, this ground-breaking book presents the first comprehensive and systematic comparison of Mexico and South Africa. Although geographically, historically and diplomatically far apart, Mexico and South Africa are ambitious and influential powers in the Global South and also experience wide-ranging domestic transitions. A binational team of 26 researchers from the two countries, all specialists in their respective disciplines, probe the transitions that Mexico and South Africa are undergoing in areas such as socio-cultural diversity, domestic politics, economic development, labour dynamics, social and territorial inequality, food security, crime and violence, and foreign relations. The detailed country studies allow the authors to identify striking similarities but also profound differences between the two societies. In so doing, the book helps to explain Mexico and South Africa to each other but also to the world at large.

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CHAPTER 6 Social and territorial inequality



Social and territorial inequality

General introduction

Graciela Teruel-Belismelis, Miguel Reyes-Hernández and Zitha Mokomane

Inequality has been seen historically as “different people having different degrees of something, often considered in terms of income or consumption” (Kay 2002: 1). According to Kay, while inequality is closely related to poverty, the two concepts refer to different things; the latter focuses only on those whose standards of living fall below an appropriate threshold level, whereas inequality deals with variations in living standards across the entire population. Studies of inequality, particularly in developing countries, are important as they highlight the close relationship between high levels of inequality and low economic growth. Inequality is typically gauged using household income or expenditure (as measured by an affordable consumption basket) and is generally summarised in an inequality index. However, new evidence shows that there are other dimensions of living standards that can impact on the relative position of different individuals (or households) within the distribution of income, resulting in varying living standards for different cross-social and cultural groups. This insight has played a major role in the emergence of social and territorial inequality studies and debates in the overall sustainable development discourse.

Broadly construed, social inequality is “the difference in income, resources, power, and status within and among societies. Such inequalities are maintained by those in powerful positions via institutions and social processes” (Naidoo 2008, cited by Warwick-Booth 2013: 2). Social inequality is worthy of...

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