UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Pass the parcel: prosperity, populism and the anti-equalities agenda

19 January 2023, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

Favela in Brazil

The IGP welcomes Jo Littler (City, University of London) for a Director's Seminar

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Institute for Global Prosperity


103, Jeffery Hall
Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
United Kingdom

This talk considers the relationship between prosperity and the popular in contemporary Britain by examining rhetorical strategies deployed in recent years by the UK government toward tackling inequality. Noting the political challenges generated by increasing popular awareness of economic inequality, the Black Lives Matter movement and a stealthily resurgent feminism, it analyses the government’s response at the level of policy and discourse. Drawing on sources including the Levelling Up White Paper, the ‘Sewell Report’ and ministerial interviews, it suggests that this political articulation might broadly be understood as ‘anti-equality’. This agenda involves conspicuously high-profile roles for select ‘model minorities’ and women; an emphatic discourse of levelling up and/or social mobility; and a marked increase in national authoritarianism. Its key feature is that it specifically attacks accounts of structural social inequality, as well as much of the infrastructure set up in the years of social democracy attempting to address it. Instead, it argues, the anti-equality agenda deploys a ‘pass the parcel’ rhetorical system: one that erratically reassigns ‘blame’ for inequality whilst simultaneously unpicking the socialised infrastructures that were attempting to deal with it.

The speaker
Jo Littler is Professor of Social Analysis and Cultural Politics at City, University of London, UK. Her books include Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility (Routledge, 2018); with The Care Collective, The Care Manifesto (Verso, 2020); and Left Feminisms: conversations on the personal and political (Lawrence & Wishart, 2023).

Part of the 2023 Spring Series of Soundbites and Director's Seminars - Prosperity and the Popular 

Original image by anja_schindler from Pixabay