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The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone Paperback – 4 Nov 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241954290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241954294
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Wilkinson has played a formative role in international research and his work has been published in 10 languages. He studied economic history at the London School of Economics before training in epidemiology and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Nottingham Medical School and Honorary Professor at University College London.

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Review

'This is a book with a big idea, big enough to change political thinking' -- John Carey, Sunday Times

'what might be the most important book of the year' -- John Grace, Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'This is a book with a big idea, big enough to change political thinking' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 July 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I welcome this book. It is a superb summary of the problems that inequality actually creates. Inequality issues are often presented as being about the poor, but this book shows that we are all poorer for living in more unequal societies. Inequality is as bad for the rich as it is for the poor. Society is poorer as inequality becomes greater.

The impacts of inequality show up in poorer health, lower educational attainment, higher crime rates, lower social capital, lower trust, lower co-operation the more unequal the society becomes. Wilkinson and Pickett give us clear evidence for these statements.

For the last twelve years we have endured in the UK a Labour government that preaches equality (then wonders "equality of what?") whilst actually presiding over increasing inequality and reducing social mobility.

Wilkinson and Pickett present their evidence well, in summary and clearly. I have the benefit of having been reading the research work on inequalities over several years so I recognised their evidence. If you need further evidence then you could follow the references, or read some of Wilkinson's The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthierearlier works, or Michael Marmot's useful book, "Status Syndrome." Status Syndrome: How Your Social Standing Directly Affects Your HealthTheir presentation of evidence is strong, and it is difficult after seeing their evidence to argue in favour of greater inequality at all.

Inequality is clearly a bad thing for a society, and its constituent individuals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Orrery on 5 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has re-aligned my views completely. In case the title is misleading, the 'equality' is income equality (or inequality) and correlates to so many factors in our society - health outcomes, childhood literacy, obesity, teenage pregnancy etc.

It shows how very unequal societies have much worse problems, even for the very rich. You just end up with the rich having to live in gated communities for security.

Certainly, this is one of the most influential books I've ever read.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Although first published under a Labour government in 2009, this book is still highly relevant now we have a Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition. In fact, it is even more relevant because the current political and economic circumstances are forcing politicians to think carefully about how much we are worried about inequality of outcome. Wilkinson and Pickett argue that widespread inequality helps increase a huge range of social ills, with the result that everyone suffers - even the most well off. Inequality in their view isn't just bad for the poor, it's also bad for the rich.

Analysing data primarily from 21 developed countries and also the different American states, they present evidence of a correlation between the level of inequality in each country (or state) and a range of outcomes: levels of trust, mental illness, life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, children's educational performance, number of teenage births, murders, imprisonment rates and social mobility. More inequality goes with lower trust, more mental illness, higher murder rates and so on.

Within a particular society being richer may go with the problem being smaller for yourself, but across the society as a whole it is the level of inequality that, they say, determines the overall levels of the problem.

The authors therefore argue that rather than securing further economic growth, inequality is now the big challenge facing developed societies: "When the wolf was never far from the door, good times were times of plenty. But for the vast majority of people in affluent countries the difficulties of life are no longer about filling our stomachs, having clear water and keeping warm. Most of us now wish we could eat less rather than more.
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75 of 85 people found the following review helpful By MB on 22 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. The fact that many poor outcomes are linked with poverty is well known. What the authors point out is that there is strong evidence showing that the level of poverty is much less important than the level of inequality in a society. Inequality causes health and social problems to people at the bottom but also at the top of the spectrum. So inequality is a lose lose situation.
I've read many science books recently. This is the best book I've read in many respects. It is very well written, very well documented, it deals with possibly the most serious political issue of our time, it is never patronising to the reader, and finally I was impressed by its scope: evidence comes from epidemiology, psychology, economics, sociology and more.
We should really send a copy of this book to each and every politician in the country. In recent times politicians have become obsessed with wealth creation. But wealth is a means not an end, and they are missing the forest for the trees.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jezza on 27 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
...which should be required reading for every politician and policy-maker. Equality works - the evidence is overwhelming. Inequality doesn't work - it doesn't deliver a cohesive society or a sustainable economy or even economic performance as any sensible person would measure it.

At first the book is a bit tiring as it grinds through the evidence for this, but it does make the slightly more analytical section later on seem more grounded.

Fascinating to see that Cuba is literally the only country in the world to deliver high levels of human wellbeing at low levels of environmental impact; whatever we think of its shortcomings, and there are many, the place needs to be nurtured and treasured like a rare plant which contains a precious medicine -- not blockaded and bullied into adopting 'free market' solutions. Interesting to see too how well Japan does on so many indices - why do our politicians spend so much time learning from the US and so little from anywhere else?

Weak on actual remedies and policies that will help us to move in the right direction but still a brilliant read.
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