The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

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by Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett, Clive Chafer
     
 

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It is a well-established fact that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. The Spirit Level, based on thirty years of research, takes this truth a step further. One common factor links the healthiest and happiest societies: the degree of equality among their members. Further, more unequal societies are bad

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Overview

It is a well-established fact that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. The Spirit Level, based on thirty years of research, takes this truth a step further. One common factor links the healthiest and happiest societies: the degree of equality among their members. Further, more unequal societies are bad for everyone within them-the rich and middle class as well as the poor.The remarkable data assembled in The Spirit Level exposes stark differences, not only among the nations of the first world but even within America's fifty states. Almost every modern social problem-poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness-is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.Renowned researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett lay bare the contradictions between material success and social failure in the developed world. But they do not merely tell us what's wrong. They offer a way toward a new political outlook, shifting from self-interested consumerism to a friendlier, more sustainable society.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Popular wisdom would tell us that poverty is the breeding ground for many of society's ills. But British academics Wilkinson (emeritus, Univ. of Nottingham Medical Sch.) and Pickett (senior lecturer, Univ. of York) argue otherwise. They've woven together a great deal of international research to show that inequality, not poverty per se, is what contributes most to social problems. The authors not only compare data from a range of countries but also gather data from all 50 states to verify that relationships that exist on a national level also exist on a more local scale. The first element examined is trust as a measure of community life and social relations. Once it is established that people in unequal societies don't trust one another, the stage is set to examine a host of other dystopian problems from mental health to teenage births to social mobility. VERDICT In this fascinating sociological study, the authors do an excellent job of presenting the research, analyzing nuances, and offering policy suggestions for creating more equal and sustainable societies. For all readers, specialized or not, with an interest in understanding the dynamics today between economic and social conditions.—Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin-Whitewater Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Predatory capitalism makes some of us poor and some of us rich, of course, but it also makes most of us sick, crime-ridden and mad-or so two British social scientists contend. In a scholarly work that is already exciting widespread discussion outside the academy, Wilkinson (Univ. of Nottingham Medical School) and Pickett (Univ. of York) show that by nearly every measure of the quality of life, societies with high income inequality fare more poorly than those with a more even distribution of wealth. In the United States, writes former labor secretary Robert Reich in the foreword, the top one percent of earners has tripled its share of the economy since 1980-when, not coincidentally, Ronald Reagan came to power and began to deregulate everything. Reich scorns the thought that the Obama administration should be branded socialist for wanting to return some social controls to 1980 and even 1990 levels. Wilkinson and Pickett are measured and even cautious in advancing their interpretations of the data, which are full of curiosities. In unequal countries, for instance, women suffer from greater levels of certain kinds of mental illness than do men, and some diseases-particularly heart-related illnesses and obesity-seem strongly correlated to disparities in wealth distribution. Everywhere, the links between legalized robbery and other kinds of crime are strong. The authors relate much of the problem to the overall phenomenon of anxiety-perhaps not the most scientific of diagnostic words, but one that does the job. Ultimately, they urge a return to the concept that liberty and equality are connected-the idea that they are not "seems to have emerged during the Cold War."A book full of dangerousideas and useful statistics, all worthy of attention, discussion and action. Author tour to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore.
From the Publisher
"Wilkinson and Pickett make an eloquent case that the income gap between a nation's richest and poorest is the most powerful indicator of a functioning and healthy society.…Felicitous prose and fascinating findings make this essential [listening]." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781452635057
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
11/21/2011
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)

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