ABSTRACT

Although money is the most generalized of social resources, allowing us to obtain many of the things we want, not everything can be bought. As the Beatles once sang, “money can’t buy me love”. It cannot because, as with friendship, love is one of those things that is dissolved or transformed into something else by the act of buying (Sandel, 2012, p. 94). However, with varying degrees of complexity and delay, many resources – houses, stocks and shares, and so on – are convertible into money, and can be spent or handed on to the next generation of one’s family. The potential for converting these resources into money, when combined with the social practice of children inheriting from their parents, has a major impact on long-term inequality. Typically, wealthy families are resource rich not just for one generation, but often for many in succession. Fiona Devine makes the point more formally, about one aspect of the intergenerational effects of money. In her study of how parents help their children get good jobs, she notes one key feature of money’s flexibility. Financial resources are

the most important resource because they are exclusive goods (not owned by others) that can be easily transmitted … in comparison to cultural and social resources that are inclusive goods (which can be owned by others) that are less easily transmitted

(Devine, 2004, p. 5).