Inherited wealth – Jens Beckert

Now available on offer at $35.58 in paperback format, this sociological study of wealth across the generations is a useful introduction for those of us that didn’t begin life in a castle!



Chapter 1: Introduction 1
1.1 Inheritance and Modern Society 1
1.2 Social Dimensions of Inheritance Law 12

Chapter 2: The Right to Bequeath: Testamentary Freedom and the Individuality of Property 21
2.1 France: Equality versus the Freedom of Private Disposition over Property 23
2.2 Germany: Testamentary Freedom versus Family and Social Justice 50
2.3 United States: Equality of Opportunity versus Individual Rights of Disposition 69
2.4 Conclusion 80

Chapter 3: Equality and Inclusion: The Inheritance Rights of the Family 83
3.1 The Principle of Equality in Intestacy Law 87
3.2 The Spouse in Intestacy Law 90
3.3 The Integration of Illegitimate Children into Inheritance Law 99
3.4 Conclusion 109

Chapter 4: Political Structure and Inheritance Law: The Abolition of Entails 114
4.1 The Double Abolition of Substitutions in France 119
4.2 The Delayed Abolition of Fideikommisse in Germany 131
4.3 The Abolition of Entails in the American Revolution 156
4.4 Conclusion 163

Chapter 5: Social Justice through Redistribution? The Taxation of Inheritance 167
5.1 Equality of Opportunity versus Private Property:
The Estate Tax in the United States 171
5.2 “Sense of Family” versus Social Justice: The Inheritance Tax in Germany 209
5.3 Destruction of National Wealth? The Progressive Inheritance Tax in France 243
5.4 Conclusion 270

Chapter 6: Conclusion: Discourses and Institutions 275


How to regulate the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next has been hotly debated among politicians, legal scholars, sociologists, economists, and philosophers for centuries.

Bequeathing wealth is a vital ingredient of family solidarity. But does the reproduction of social inequality through inheritance square with the principle of equal opportunity? Does democracy suffer when family wealth becomes political power?

The first in-depth, comparative study of the development of inheritance law in the United States, France, and Germany, Inherited Wealth investigates long-standing political and intellectual debates over inheritance laws and explains why these laws still differ so greatly among these countries.

Using a sociological perspective, Jens Beckert sheds light on the four most controversial issues in inheritance law during the past two centuries: the freedom to dispose of one’s property as one wishes, the rights of family members to the wealth bequeathed, the dissolution of entails (which restrict inheritance to specific classes of heirs), and estate taxation.

Beckert shows that while the United States, France, and Germany have all long defended inheritance rights based on the notion of individual property rights, they have justified limitations on inheritance rights in profoundly different ways, reflecting culturally specific ways of understanding the problems of inherited wealth.


🦉 © Peter Fairbrother @pjforguk 🌄

One comment

Leave a comment