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174 of 200 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inequality is the root of all evil.
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have written a remarkable, meticulously researched book which argues convincingly that inequality is the root cause of many of society's ills. A mass of evidence is marshalled to demonstrate that levels of violent crime, mental illness, drug addiction, illiteracy, obesity etc. are almost always higher in more unequal societies and that...
Published on 1 Feb 2010 by Jazzrook

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not suitable for Kindle
I bought this as a Kindle version but wasn't aware of the graphs and tables in it. Unfortunately they are not able to be enlarged to view on a Kindle so their significance is lost.

In my view the book should not have been released for Kindle.
Published 5 months ago by Purplheather


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174 of 200 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inequality is the root of all evil., 1 Feb 2010
By 
Jazzrook (Purbrook , Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have written a remarkable, meticulously researched book which argues convincingly that inequality is the root cause of many of society's ills. A mass of evidence is marshalled to demonstrate that levels of violent crime, mental illness, drug addiction, illiteracy, obesity etc. are almost always higher in more unequal societies and that even the affluent are adversely affected by inequality.
The UK is near the top of the income gap league with twice as much inequality as Scandinavia & Japan and consequently experiences more social problems. Chosen as a 'Top 10 Book' of the decade by New Statesman magazine, 'The Spirit Level' is an important, thought-provoking book and should be compulsory reading for ministers in the Con-Dem coalition government who profess concern about 'Broken Britain'. The recent riots in England(August 2011) make this an even more essential read.

P.S. The updated paperback edition(November,2010) includes a new chapter giving the authors' well-argued response to strident political attacks on the book from the free-market right.
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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Equality is better than wealth, 22 Mar 2009
By 
MB (Liverpool) - See all my reviews
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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear and convincing introduction to evidence-based policy, 27 Aug 2009
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...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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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ground-breaking study of inequality, 3 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Paperback)
Unsurprisingly the hard-back copy of this book sold over 100,000 copies. It addresses something we are all aware of: the shocking levels of inequality in our society and the way that this is connected to many ills, from poor mental health to higher prison populations. I was ahamed to see the UK up there with the US as one of the most unequal societies. Perhaps one of the most surprising discoveries was how affected by inequality people at every level of society are, not just the poorest or those at the bottom. It is literally in all our interests to mkae our societies more equal.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hopeful manifesto and a call to action!, 11 Mar 2009
By 
WPV Kerry "Bill Kerry" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I actually think this book has a rather hopeful message. Whilst the scale of the problems caused by inequality are vast and sobering, it is made clear by the authors (who are known to me) that relatively small moves towards greater equality can yield great benefits - and it doesn't really matter how you achieve that greater equality, just as long as you do. This has profound implications for politics showing that tax and spend is not the only solution, narrowing the gap in incomes before tax can work as well. Therefore, a real chance for a broad political consensus in favour of equality exists here - a hopeful message if ever there was one.

The book also points out that all the levers necessary to move towards more equal societies already exist and can easily be grasped given political will. We don't have to aim for utopia, we don't have to have a full-blown revolution to massively increase well-being and sustainability throughout the world - and not just the developed world. The authors point out that more equal developed countries are more nurturing and collaborative, so they give far more to the developing world in terms of overseas aid and score better on the Global Peace Index and are more likely to abide by international treaties.

This book poses the big questions about what it means to be human and what we now need to do to survive. These are the big ideas that the world's current leaders are failing to seize upon. This is much more than an academic book; it is a call to action.

Bill Kerry.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book is an important contribution in urging politicians to see social problems as having social solutions, 10 Dec 2011
By 
Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (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. And, for the first time in history, the poor are - on average - fatter than the rich."

As statisticians everywhere says, correlation does not mean causation - so the authors go on from their presentation of the case that higher inequality goes with worse outcomes across their measures (and there is a debate over how significant a correlation their evidence shows) to present pieces of evidence that it is inequality which is actually causing those worse outcomes.

In particular, they pick from relatively recent medical advances showing how stress brings about chemical changes in the body that then has very tangible effects. Added to this is evidence that a person's sense of self-worth has an important impact on their ability to carry out tasks - so again more inequality leads to a worse outcome for individuals. Moreover, "the evolutionary importance of shame and humiliation provides a plausible explanation of why more unequal societies suffer more violence".

In a way this is very optimistic book, for if all these ills have a common factor - inequality - then in turn doing something about inequality could bring very widespread benefits. That clarity and simplicity of prognosis as to how to improve society makes the book far more optimistic than previous accounts of the ills of modern society such as JK Galbraith's The Culture of Contentment.

However, this optimistic logic highlights one of the book's weaknesses. Not only does it rely overwhelmingly on comparisons across countries at the same point in time, rather than in tracking ailments varying over the years, the limited amount of such evidence deployed is almost all of the `inequality increased and then things got worse' form. There is no automatic reason why, even if increasing inequality makes things worse, then decreasing it will make things better. The world is not always symmetrical. Moreover, even if the effect works strongly `in reverse', is it the most cost-effective route to take? If inequality causes stress which causes social ills, is targeting stress going to be more successful?

Despite these questions left unanswered, the book is an important contribution in urging politicians to see social problems as having social solutions; the focus needs to be on society and not on just individuals.
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76 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ, 18 Feb 2010
While this is not the first publication to draw peoples attention to the impact of inequality, it is by far the most comprehensive and well written. The authors present compelling evidence that more equal societies, those with a narrower gap between rich and poor, are more cohesive, healthier, suffer fewer social problems and are more environmentally sustainable. It may prove uncomfortable reading for many but the book brings to the reader the hard realities of life in unequal societies like the UK and the USA. It promts the reader to challenge the conventional thinking about whether alowing huge inequalities is sustainable and to consider what could and should be done to develop a fairer society. This is a superb book and anybody at all interested in the society that they live in should give it a thorough read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairness rates with everyone, 25 Mar 2011
By 
E. Mariel Schooff "booky" (Port Coquitlam B.C. Can.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Paperback)
This is an absolutely ground shaking book. It rates as one of the best I've read and affirms what I've instinctively felt all my life, that a feeling of inclusion, reflected in the wages we earn, makes for a more cohesive and a more equal society. Well worth reading for everyone.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very special book, 29 Sep 2010
Such an important contribution to the literature and to our understanding of wellbeing. The message of this book is very simple and very straightforward: that people are healthier and happier in a more equal society. The statistics are stark, and convincing - though it might have been good to know more about some of the counter-arguments and counter-positions.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 worth of excellent sense, 10 Aug 2010
This little book is one of the most important books of the decade. It is totally readable and should be read by all. I give it as presents as it is less than the price of twopints of beer and much better for you!
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The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone by Kate Pickett (Paperback - 4 Nov 2010)
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