Mr. Winterkorn’s Pay : A Typology of Justification Patterns of Income Inequality
This article develops a typology of justification patterns of income inequality by means of analysing the discourse surrounding executive pay in Germany. The case of a public debate about the record salary of the car manufacturer VW’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, in 2012 and 2013, is identified as a rich source for a reconstruction of specific argumentative patterns and their underlying premises. The typology presents five justification patterns, (i) equality of opportunity, (ii) desert, (iii) procedure of salary determination, (iv) harmful consequences of income inequality, and (v) need. Further cross-patterns are identified. A key finding is the crucial – but often not explicit – role of factual, definitional or behavioural premises. It is argued that unveiling the structure of justification patterns of income inequality can provide a key tool in scrutinizing as well as in further analysing public debates about income inequality.