Effects of Political Inequality on Society

Inequality — economic, political, social — is at the heart of society’s troubles. Political inequality is a particular kind and it has many definitions. In the main, it refers to structured differences in influence and outcomes of political processes.

What are the effects of political inequality on society? Here we explore the consequences of political inequality, with a focus on its impact on socioeconomic conditions, social cohesion, and the quality of democracy.

Socioeconomic Conditions Decline

A severe consequence of political inequality is its impact on socioeconomic conditions. When political power is unevenly distributed, policies and legislation cater to the interests of the privileged few rather than the needs of the many. The economically advantaged continue to accumulate wealth and power, further entrenching political inequality.

Political inequality exacerbates existing social and economic disparities. Marginalized groups, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, and lower-income individuals, are more likely to be underrepresented in political decision-making. Their needs and priorities are be adequately addressed, leading to a perpetuation of disadvantage, inadequate access to essential services, and limited opportunities for social mobility.

Social Cohesion Erodes

Political inequality degrades social cohesion. When citizens perceive that their voices and concerns are not fairly represented in the political process, they may become disillusioned and disengaged from civic life and lose their faith in democracy. Lack of trust in political institutions can lead to social unrest, protests, and even political violence, as people seek alternative means to express their grievances and demand change.

Political inequality can contribute to the rise of populist movements, and, as a result, democratic backsliding. Demagogic leaders promise to address the concerns of the disadvantaged via inflammatory rhetoric and empty promises. This degrades social cohesion and erodes the foundations of democratic society.

Democracy Backslides

Political inequality degrades representation and the functioning of democracy. A cornerstone of democratic governance is the idea that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the political and legal systems. Yet, political power is concentrated in the hands of a few, this ideal is fundamentally undermined.

Political inequality hollows out democratic institutions. Political accountability and transparency declines as populist demagogues fill the void. Corruption and the erosion of the rule of law follows. Dissent is suppressed. Democracy declines as citizens lose faith in the system’s ability to be just and fair.


Political inequality exacerbates economic disparities. It erodes social cohesion and the quality of democracy.

To end the slide, everyone — policymakers and citizens alike — must address the rise and continuation of political inequality. By tackling these issues, we can build a more inclusive and equal democracy that serves the needs of everyone.