The Making of Global Inequality

A Conceptual History, 1945–1980

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Christian Olaf Christiansen Aarhus University, Denmark

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This article is a history of postwar discourse on an unequal world. This discourse was profoundly shaped by new influences: quantitative data and an expanding inequality research infrastructure, the “birth of development,” decolonization, human rights, the global Cold War, and theories of the world as one integrated global system. Examining academic journal articles written in English, this article traces the emergence of global inequality in the aftermath of the World Food Crisis of 1972–1975. Originally, global inequality was as much about power as about income differentials, mainly referring to multiple inequalities between the so-called Third World and the First. However, even as the late 1960s and the 1970s saw an increased politicization of the discourse on an unequal world, global inequality did not become a key concept in the 1970s.

Contributor Notes

Christian Olaf Christiansen is Associate Professor in the History of Ideas at Aarhus University. ORCID: 0000-0002-8949-9092. E-mail:

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