Polarization and its Discontents

Does rising economic inequality undermine the foundations of liberal societies?

Economic inequality has been on the rise in almost all Western societies for the last decades. What is much less clear, however, is whether this trend is spelling societal problems, and when, to which extent and in what respects rising inequality may affect the nature of our societies. As hallmarks of liberal society, we specifically investigate to which extent rising inequality may be interfering with societies’ capabilities to allocate positions according to merit and talent, to engage in cooperative social relations, and to decide on political matters through fair and transparent democratic processes.

We invite you to browse and explore our website to learn more about the project and the team – and we hope that you may occasionally revisit to check for any updates or new publications that will be disseminated through this website in the future.

Thank you for your interest in our work!

Markus Gangl & the whole POLAR team


economic inequality
support for democracy


Markus Gangl
Svenja Hense

I am curious to see how people adapt their political attitudes to rising inequality.

Simon Bienstman

I am interested in the pathways and mechanisms through which inequality affects our societies.

Carlotta Giustozzi

I am interested in how welfare states shape the consequences of income inequality for social cohesion.

Elisa Ebertz

As a student assistant, I am particularly interested in how to work together on a long-term research project.


Upcoming Talk at the Sciences Po OSC Scientific Seminar

On June 18, Markus Gangl will give a presentation at the OSC Scientific Seminar at the Sciences Po’s Observatoire Sociologique de Changement in Paris. Under the heading “A New Old Macroeconomics of Social Cohesion: Rising Prosperity Still Trumps Rising Inequality, at Least for Many”, Markus Gangl will present new findings from the POLAR project toContinue reading “Upcoming Talk at the Sciences Po OSC Scientific Seminar”

Talk at the Cluster Colloquium

On May 18, Markus Gangl gave an online presentation at the colloquium of the Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality”, based at the University of Konstanz. The talk dealt with the question “Is Rising Inequality a Threat to Democracy?” and summarized first findings from the POLAR project. More information about the program of theContinue reading “Talk at the Cluster Colloquium”

POLAR working paper presented at the Workshop on Perceptions and Policy Preferences

„Explaining the democratic malaise: Testing perceived responsiveness as a mechanism of the inequality-trust link“ was presented at the Workshop on Perceptions and Policy Preferences in Hamburg on May 7th. In this paper, Simon Bienstman, Svenja Hense and Markus Gangl ask whether perceptions of responsiveness explain why and how income inequality affects political trust. They developContinue reading “POLAR working paper presented at the Workshop on Perceptions and Policy Preferences”


We gratefully acknowledge the generous funding of the European Research Council for this project (Grant Agreement No. 833196). The research of the POLAR project would not be possible without the ERC’s support.