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VINE VOICEon 16 March 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Social injustice is increasing. In an affluent society (even in recession, we are still relatively affluent)with all the historical and political knowledge available to us, still the gap between rich and poor grows, still the educational gap is immense, still, despite all the rhetoric, unfairness is endemic. Why can't we fix it? Is it just malice? Class prejudice? Or something else?
In this fascinating,indispensable book, Dorling offers some ideas...that maybe we're asking the wrong questions, and trying to deal with the wrong evils...

He replaces the old social evils identified by Beveridge (ignorance, want, idleness, squalor, disease) with some new social evils (elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair) and proceeds to build a case which suggests that inequality has become entrenched in our society and unless we challenge the assumptions on which our society is founded, then injustice will not only be with us, but will continue to grow.

As a non-fan of Blair and his cronies, I could weep for the heart of this country at the way Cameron and Clegg have managed to use a recession to justify increasing inequalities in education, pay, pensions, housing, health... they really need to read this book!

And so do you!

Even if you disagree with his conclusions, his passion and commitment shine from these pages. It's a book of the head and the heart. And a book for our times. Read Dickens, then Dorling!
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2011
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Let me say one thing straight away. It is brilliant that this book exists. That Daniel Dorling has meticulously researched and taken the time to collate all the facts and figures into a dense but readable narrative that so confidently and precisely skewers the notion that we have all found our natural place in the order of things due to ability, ambition and work ethic. Yes this book does a great job at that .
You sense a however coming and you are correct. Before I come to the however , I feel i must add a caveat. The way that I see it the people who really need to read this book. The rich , the powerful , the policy and decision makers are never going to read a book like this. This is a book that is going to be read , mostly , by those who morally and politically sensitive to the needs of the others. In other words this is a book that is going to preach to the converted.
Injustice is a coruscating and sweeping evaluation of British politics that bluntly dismisses a plethora of supposedly progressive policies as ineffective and distractions from what he says are the real trends undermining the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the country at large.
He identifies five sets of beliefs - elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair - that he claims are replacing Beveridge's five social evils, created at the dawn of the welfare state (ignorance, want, idleness, squalor and disease), and have become so entrenched in Britain and some other affluent countries that they uphold an unjust system that perpetuates extreme inequality. Dorling argues powerfully that politicians in Britain and the other most unequal rich countries ( he found only the US, Portugal and Singapore out of the 25 affluent states he analysed to be more unequal than Britain ) have accepted and propagated the detrimental idea that inequality is "unfortunate" but inevitable, rather than seeing it, first and foremost, as unjust.
There is much more detail and depth to Injustice than that and it would frankly take pages and pages of text to do it justice ( no pun intended ). In one sense this means that through the sheer relentless density of the text and the proliferation of charts & graphs Injustice is difficult to read with any great intensity in one sitting . It is a book to be digested in small edifying chunks.
This is an immeasurably important book, a source of data with which to support the argument that we have to pay meticulous attention to inequality if we are to tackle social injustice, and, as such, highly recommended. My earlier rather downbeat assessment of who will read this book should not be taken too literally, though i still stsand firmly by the point . The more people who read this book the better, from wherever. As this quote proves I suppose. "Given this, our power and way forward has to be in joining together, making alliances, making everyone's voice heard: 'we realise that, although none of us is superhuman, neither are any of us without significance.'
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 January 2012
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This is an excellent book and compares very favourably with others on a similar topic, such as The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, it seems a shame that it has not attracted the same attention as these other books or warranted a response as they have (see The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-checking the Left's New Theory of Everything).

I have been reading on the topic of social equality/inequality and its consequences for some time, considering it to be one of the central questions of politics, from the nineteen eighties at least some of the most sophisticated political thinking has actually been in favour of inequality, considering it to be not simply natural but also eminently defensible (see Equality). This has become the political consensus and has spread beyond politics to be a popularly held opinion too.

It is from this juncture that Dorling begins his book, that inequality in order to exist and persist requires a belief system which underpins it and treats it as normal and inevitable. The book has an excellent index and contents page, it is structured very well, each chapter has a title corresponding to the toxic beliefs Dorling identifies in his introductory chapter and is further subdivided into subheadings identifying the policies, politics and public decisions corresponding to the specific belief. The book is densely researched and has a comprehensive, as comprehensive as I have seen, notes and sources which are presented in the form of endnotes for each chapter. The notes and sources themselves are a combination of primary and secondary sources, so it is not simply a list of news stories or media websites, there is research, government papers, professional or peer review journals and there are also internet links referenced.

The main chapter headings breakdown as follows:-
1 Introduction; 2 Inequality: the antecedent and outcome of injustice; 3 'Elitism is efficient': new educational divisions; 4 'Exclusion is necessary': excluding people from society; 5 'Prejudice is natural': a wider racism; 6 'Greed is Good': consumption and waste; 7 'Despair is inevitable': health and wellbeing; 8 Conclusion, conspiracy, consensus.

There is also an Afterword: social evils in 2010; Evils in the UK; What to do.

What is interesting about Dorling's book and he writes about in "What to do" is that he does not suggest major structural adjustments, he is not partisan in any real sense either and makes fair criticism of both the political left and right wing, he does make some brilliant points about beliefs and how they translate into policy and practices. He does not provide a long account of how beliefs are formed or can be changed but has provided an example by his own research and writing efforts of how they can be exposed and questioned.

I recommend this book to as wide a readership as possible, it is not academic in tone or inaccessible to a general reader and it is not a pessimistic or preachy book in tone either. It is a perfect antidote to a lot of what serves as popular public and political opinion on social inequality and an excellent reply to sincerely held opinions of the "vulgar Burkean conservatism" which is implicit or explicit in most of the chapter headings.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2011
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For those people who, like me, are annoyed by the sometimes altogether subtle (or entirely unsubtle) inequalities of modern life; this will make for a fascinating read.

This book deeply explores the crooked ideologies of our modern society in attempt to out the inequalities present in our society, and is wonderfully written making it both deeply informative but very readable at the same time- even for novice sociologists like myself, and I infact found the book to be incredibly eye-opening and at times shocking.

Having said it's readable- it is rather hefty at times, and it's certainly not a book to be taking to bed with a cup of cocoa; but that being said, it is a truly brilliant insight into the existence of inequality and injustice in society, it's informative and well structured and most of all it is thought provoking.

I recommend this book to those who, like I, want to better themselves and open their eyes to the problems within our communities, and open their minds to thinking in a more positive and equal way.
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on 20 July 2011
'Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists' is Daniel Dorling's attempt to take further the contemporary debate on inequality in prosperous societies by moving on from the mere fact of rising inequality to the causes of its continuation in countries that clearly have the means, but apparently not the will, to make their citizens' lives more equal. In essence, his argument comes down to two factors: the operation of intrinsic structural forces of capitalist economics in rich countries; and the triumph since the 1970s of an ideology that explains that economic system as not merely natural, but a necessary consequence of free-market capitalism, which is itself treated as self-evidently the most efficient and moral economic system possible and thus the greatest guarantor of the general good.

In five substantial chapters, Professor Dorling examines the way in which unjust principles have been embedded in contemporary thinking and discourse. These five principles - an obvious and acknowledged parallel to Beveridge's five 'Giant Evils' - are elitism: social exclusion; prejudice; greed; and despair (and its political consequence - apathy). Dorling produces a wealth of argument and well-documented evidence to show how increasingly general acceptance of these inequities underlies and reinforces gross social inequality. The resultant disparity in life chances for individuals is excused by making them appear the necessary, inevitable and even desirable consequence of capitalism's alleviation for most of the very worst aspects of human existence.

So far so good, and it's hard to imagine anyone with an open mind reading this book entirely without profit. However, Dorling's cause is damaged by an uncertainty of tone that seems to be rooted in an underlying uncertainty about the composition of his intended audience. Dispassionate, objective exposure of social evil suddenly gives way to polemic in a way that suggests some brutal and unwilling fusion of the pamphleteering tradition with the academic monograph. The tone veers unpredictably between that of a lecturer addressing students and that of a firebrand addressing a public meeting.

Dorling is an acknowledged expert in his field: he seems however to forget at times that many of his readers will not be so familiar with statistical methodology, and as a result I often found it necessary to pay very close attention to the text in order to understand graphs that the author appears to think self-explanatory. This would matter less if the information conveyed were not so vital to the argument.

The result is that the perfectly rational case that Dorling is making is somewhat damaged by the manner of its presentation. Those who most need to hear what Dorling has to say are those most likely to be frightened off by the entirely justifiable, but impolitic anger. The author also offers hostages to fortune by employing on occasion the kind of rhetoric that will allow the ill-disposed to dismiss him as a polytechnic Marxist. (Dorling is not explicitly a Marxist, but 'Injustice' clearly stands in a long tradition of ideological critique). A book of this kind, if it is to have the intended effect, has to reach further than the ranks of the true believers. For me, admirable in some respects as 'Injustice' is, it falls between two stools.

Recommended nonetheless, especially for readers who may be unfamiliar with the results of research in human geography, sociology and economic history over the last decade or so. My three-star rating is a compromise between four stars for content and two for presentation.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2011
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Thanks to works such as The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, there is a rising awareness of inequality in society, and the damage it can do. Dorling takes this large and growing body of work, organising it along five elucidating strands. These are cleverly based on Beveridge's five social ills, but transformed into five related modern ills, which the author then exposes in turn.

This structure allows for a much deeper exploration of social injustice than encountered elsewhere, and some of the examples given here may shock or surprise at first, such as the brilliant example of OECD 'bell curves' of ability, which effectively write off whole cohorts of children (and are shot down as a prime example of elitism, one of Dorling's modern ills). As well as the oft-cited and well-rehearsed arguments against consumerism, inequality and greed, you'll find many more less obvious examples backing them up, excellently referenced with extensive footnotes.

At times, the author's use of some quite advanced statistics and probabilities in tables and graphs can confuse, although the main strands of his argument are readable and easily followed. The barrage of stats is alleviated by both the persuasiveness of Dorling's writing, and the occasional humour - his rant at orthodox economists is particularly amusing, yet serves its point well.

It's an angry book, that's for sure, despite the author's afterword expressing surprise at this. Dorling has something to say which is both urgent and exasperating, so the tones of frustration are understandable - but the tone doesn't detract too much from the excellently researched case he puts forward. There's often a great seam of humour through the book too, especially with his swipes at the folly of orthodox economics and the socially dysfunctional men that typify it. A great, eye-opening read, and an important step in understanding further the causes of social woes and possible responses to them. With some almost prophetic passages on the links between inequality and riots, and attitudes towards rioting, there is no better time to read this book.
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on 11 January 2012
Excellent, thought-provoking, scholarly, fully-referenced work. This book has really challenged my thinking about equality, meritocracy and elitism. For me personally, the sections on the inheritability of intelligence, advertising, the superhuman myth and bird-brained thinking of economists, have been pretty life-changing. I have been reading a library copy, but aim to purchase it.
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on 24 April 2011
I had the pleasure of hearing Prof. Dorling speak at the Equality Trust's presentation in Manchester in April. He is a fantastic speaker - neither preachy or bombastic. He sets out his meticulously researched evidence and then explains in a very down to earth fashion how our current way of thinking supports the staggering level of inequality that we now have in the UK. This book just adds more and more weight to his arguement that we cannot afford this situation to continue and that we must reduce income inequality.
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on 15 August 2011
I read this after reading The Spirit Level, on holiday abroad as riots consumed cities throughout the UK. And anyone who reads it can only wonder, what took them so long? It is a stunning evidential trawl through the way in which the wealthy and privileged have abdicated all moral and financial responsibility for society, and successfully got elected placemen who serve their every wish. Dorling sounds angry but claims he isn't, that simply writing down the facts makes him appear so. We need more of these searchlights illuminating the truth of our broken society.
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on 10 February 2014
Danny Dorling maps,as a human geographer,the statistics of the 2007-10 crash and recession in horrifying clinical detail and with what seems to be irrefutable evidence.As an idealist and lifelong political activist I found his analysis very depressing,but essential reading.The book is mainly concerned with ongoing injustice in affluent European countries though many stats also include USA.
Dorling takes the 5 ancient social evils of Ignorance,Want,Idleness,Squalor and Disease as named by the Beveridge report,and updates them for the modern post 1970s neoliberal market economics age to Elitism.Exclusion,Prejudice,Greed and Despair. The writer shows over and over again with screeds of information,that the social fabric of the USA is no place for the UK to emulate.
Small,socially cohesive European states with equality and participation embedded in their education system are coping best in the current global crisis.Very well footnoted in an academic manner.Danny Dorling makes clear that political change is the only answer
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