Envy in the process of development: Implications for Social Relations and Conflict

Boris Gershman


This article examines envy as an important cultural link between inequality, institutions, development, and conflict. It argues that envy can be either a source of strife and stagnation or an engine for peaceful competition and growth. The fundamental conditions that activate the constructive side of envy and shut down its destructive side are access to productive investment opportunities, equality, security of property rights, and mild social comparisons. The dominant role of envy in society gives rise to a set of related cultural norms and beliefs that affect economic performance and social relations. While constructive envy is manifested in emulation or even envy-provocation -standard features of a consumer society- destructive envy produces a fear-of-envy culture that hampers economic incentives and creates an environment of suspicion and conflict.


Envy; inequality; culture; conflict

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15355/epsj.8.2.13


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