Quick Review: The Matthew Effect

Sociologist Daniel Rigney tackles the “Matthew Effect” in a book published earlier in 2010. The “Matthew effect” refers to a situation where those with more get even more and those with less continue to get less so that there is a growing gap. The effect is captured in the phrase “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

The “Matthew effect” was coined by famous sociologist Robert Merton and refers to a Biblical saying of Jesus (Matthew 13:12): “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

My quick thoughts:

1. The book is a quick overview of the “Matthew effect” within different fields like science, technology, and politics. The book is not very deep and the examples are not fully explored. The primary goal seems to be to argue that Matthew effects are found throughout human activity.

2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell tackles the same subject. Gladwell’s book is mentioned by Rigney and I wish Rigney added more sociological insights as Gladwell already provided a good overview.

3. The implications section (Chapter 6) raises some interesting questions but does not provide a sufficient discussion. An intriguing question: is the Matthew effect a law or a social construction?

4. Overall: I found some good examples of how social inequality develops to use with future classes. Beyond that, the book is simplistic and would benefit from deeper discussions regarding specific Matthew effects and their implications.

3 thoughts on “Quick Review: The Matthew Effect

  1. Pingback: Inequality starts young: education opportunities for 3-year-olds | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Responding to “The Disturbing History of the Suburbs” | Legally Sociable

  3. Pingback: Change how album sales are measured, change perceptions of popular music | Legally Sociable

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