KOKOMO, Ind. —Inequality should not be normal.
That is the argument Earl Wysong, Indiana University Kokomo professor emeritus of sociology, establishes in his new book, Deep Inequality: Understanding the New Normal and How to Challenge It.
He and co-author Robert Perrucci, also a retired sociology professor, consider how inequality is promoted as “the new normal” by institutional leaders, while social activists contest that label.
“We encourage people to look at the world with fresh eyes, and understand that inequality is not normal,” Wysong said. “There was the old normal that was more equitable, with more opportunities. If you don’t like the new normal, it means there has to be change, which means engagement.”
When the phrase “the new normal” was first used, he said, it referred to how the world changes after a tragedy, like a school shooting, and then began to apply to preparation for and prevention of terrorist activities. After the recession in 2008, it expanded into economic, social, and cultural references.
“We can’t do what we used to do, we have to do more with less,” he said. “Somehow that was justified by calling it ‘the new normal,’ without any explanation. These inequalities are woven into the basic fabric of how our government and organizations operate.
“Those kinds of changes were the results of policy influenced by groups who had more, and wanted more, and we got less,” Wysong said. “Some people are doing pretty well, but we have average-income Americans at stagnant income levels. In Kokomo, if you’re not a blue collar Chrysler worker or a professional, you’re earning $9 to $10 an hour, which is not a lot of money if you’re trying to raise a family.”
Under the “new normal,” he noted, college would not have been possible for him. He started his education at IU Kokomo when it was housed in the Seiberling Mansion, and worked summers to pay his tuition and save to complete his degree in Bloomington.
“You didn’t graduate with $25,000 in student debt, and there were full-time jobs that paid a living wage, with benefits,” he said. “You could support yourself and possibly start a family.”
He and his co-author want to encourage readers to understand that the “new normal” is more austere, with fewer opportunities, and that it didn’t happen by accident. The book provides directions to pursue for change, and organizations that are involved.
Wysong began his career at IU Kokomo as an adjunct faculty in 1972, and retired as Professor of Sociology in 2011.
Deep Inequality: Understanding the New Normal and How to Challenge It was published by Rowman and Littlefield. It is available as a hardback book and as an e-book.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.