The “Last Place Aversion” Paradox…

…needs interdisciplinizing:

Support for redistribution, surprisingly enough, has plummeted during the recession…our recent research suggests that, far from being surprised that many working-class individuals would oppose redistribution, we might actually expect their opposition to rise during times of turmoil – despite the fact that redistribution appears to be in their economic interest.

Our work suggests that people exhibit a fundamental loathing for being near or in last place – what we call “last place aversion.” This fear can lead people near the bottom of the income distribution to oppose redistribution because it might allow people at the very bottom to catch up with them or even leapfrog past them.

While this research out of Princeton is extremely relevant (given the debt crisis, continuing recession, and tea party movement), it is important to understand in what sense this “loathing of being in last place” is “fundamental.”  Do the authors mean to claim this is a fundamental facet of human nature? If so, they would need to more broadly consider anthropological counter-evidence and critical (rather than merely descriptive) sociological analysis of this loathing they document (which seems very real).

The “Last Place Aversion” Paradox: Scientific American

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