The Age of Unequals

One of Britain’s leading social epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson, looks at what it means to live in a new age of inequality. Wilkinson is the co-author of the groundbreaking, international bestseller The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.

The Spirit Level

I haven’t read The Spirit Level yet, but in his last book Ill Fares the Land, the late Tony Judt quotes from it extensively. The authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett base their work on what they call ‘evidence-based politics,’ an approach I also favour (as opposed to the theology that generally passes for analysis on the left). That the book has had an impact is confirmed by the fact that recently a host of conservative and neoconservative think-tanks (led by the raving-mad Policy Exchange) have launched a concerted campaign against it. Here is an interview with the authors in which they explain the argument of the book followed by Robert Booth’s report in the Guardian about the right-wing assault on their work.

Bestseller with cross-party support arguing that equality is better for all comes under attack from thinktanks

It was an idea that seemed to unite the political classes. Everyone from David Cameron to Labour leadership candidates Ed and David Miliband have embraced a book by a pair of low-profile North Yorkshire social scientists called The Spirit Level.

Their 274-page book, a mix of “eureka!” insights and statistical analysis, makes the arresting claim that income inequality is the root of pretty much every social ill – murder, obesity, teenage pregnancy, depression. Inequality even limits life expectancy itself, they said.

The killer line for politicians seeking to attract swing voters was that greater equality is not just better for the poor but for the middle classes and the rich too.

Continue reading “The Spirit Level”

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