The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1608193411

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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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wishing they could just disappear, or that the ground would swallow them up. Although the Dickerson and Kemeny study found that it was exposure to social evaluative threats which most reliably raised levels of stress hormones, that does not tell us how frequently people suffer from such anxieties. Are they a very common part of everyday life, or only occasional? An answer to that question comes from the health research showing that low social status, lack of friends, and a difficult early

particularly difficult for adolescents. While their sense of themselves is most uncertain, they have to cope in schools of a thousand or more of their peers. It is hardly surprising that peer pressure becomes such a powerful force in their lives, that so many are dissatisfied with what they look like, or succumb to depression and self-harm. INEQUALITY INCREASES EVALUATION ANXIETIES Although the rises in anxiety that seem to centre on social evaluation pre-date the rise in inequality, it is

life – in the quality of life as measured by health, happiness, friendship and community life, which really matters. However, rather than simply having fewer of all the luxuries which substitute for and prevent us recognizing our more fundamental needs, inequality has to be reduced simultaneously. We need to create more equal societies able to meet our real social needs. Instead of policies to deal with global warming being experienced simply as imposing limits on the possibilities of material

each country?2 There are lots of ways of measuring income inequality and they are all so closely related to each other that it doesn’t usually make much difference which you use. Instead of the top and bottom 20 per cent, we could compare the top and bottom 10 or 30 per cent. Or we could have looked at the proportion of all incomes which go to the poorer half of the population. Typically, the poorest half of the population get something like 20 or 25 per cent of all incomes and the richest half

incomes; Malaysia introduced explicit wealth sharing programs to improve the lot of ethnic Malays vis-à-vis the better off ethnic Chinese; Hong Kong and Singapore undertook massive public housing programs; in several economies, governments assisted workers’ cooperatives and established programs to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises. Whatever the form, these programs demonstrated that the government intended for all to share in the benefits of growth.367 Japan owes its status as the

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