The Spirit Level. Why Equality is Better for Everyone: reviewed

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have done a lot to draw attention to the social and environmental costs associated with inequality. This impressive book has a robust evidence base to support their central argument that less equal societies have a deeper set of social problems than their more egalitarian counterparts.

Nonetheless, there are some weaknesses associated with the largely empirical approach that they have adopted. Firstly, there is a danger that they are actually stigmatising the poor by suggesting that single parenthood may be a social ill, for example. Secondly, there is a major difficulty associated with their apparent lack of political insight. This is best illustrated by the seeming complacency evident in the following quote:

“Rather than challenging the causal role of inequality in increasing health and social problems, if governments understood the consequences of widening income differences they would be keener to prevent them.”


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