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The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes…

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (original 2009; edition 2011)

by Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson

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8233811,024 (4.03)31
Title:The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
Authors:Kate Pickett
Other authors:Richard Wilkinson
Info:Bloomsbury Press (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 400 pages

Work details

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson (2009)

  1. 20
    Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age by Larry M. Bartels (zhejw)
    zhejw: Wilkinson demonstrates how the U.S. suffers because of inequality and suggests some solutions that are neither left nor right. Bartels offers evidence for how the wealthy use the American political system to their advantage.
  2. 00
    Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan (peter_vandenbrande)
    peter_vandenbrande: Wilkinson en Pickett beschrijven op macro-niveau de consequenties van ongelijkheid. Ze beschrijven vooral de relaties: "in ongelijke samenlevingen doen dit soort zich fenomenen voor". Ze kunnen echter niet zo goed duidelijk maken welke mechanismen hieraan ten grondslag liggen. "Hoe komt het dan dan ongelijkheid voor een bepaald effect zorgt?" Mullainathan en Shafir doen dat wel. Zij beschrijven glashelder hoe het fenomeen "schaarste" mechanismen in gang zet op het cognitieve en sociaal-emtionele vlak. En ze beschrijven op basis van hun onderzoek, de relatie tussen die mechanismen en de nefaste consequenties van Wilkinson en Pickett.… (more)
  3. 00
    The No-Nonsense Guide to Equality (No-Nonsense Guides) by Danny Dorling (lcalvin83)
  4. 02
    Beware False Prophets: Equality, the Good Society and the Spirit Level by Peter Saunders (TomVeal)
    TomVeal: Maybe "enjoy" isn't the right verb, but this analysis (available as a free download) raises important questions about The Spirit Level's methodology and conclusions.… (more)

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» See also 31 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I have heard people raving about this book for some time. I did not bother to read it because I felt that I already knew that equality was better than the alternative and that reading another moralising book wasn't going to be of much value.

I WAS WRONG on just about every account. This is the best book that I have read in a long time. It is far from being a glib peon to 'being nice' and, I strongly recommend that any of you who have not read it yet, so do.

The first thing that one notices is that it doesn't talk about what it would be nice, were we to do. The whole perspective of this book is about what is best for each of us; be we unemployed and homeless or multimillionaire heads of industry; and that is the key. This book clearly demonstrates that greater equality is to all our advantage.

The second thing to note about this book, is that it is not based upon opinion. It is packed with graphs produced from the official statistics of as many countries as are willing to release their records to the public. Now, I know the old saying, about "lies, d**n lies and statistics" but, in this instance, the data were not collected by the authors, and comparisons are like for like: i.e. if the argument is advanced that more people are imprisoned in countries with greater variation between highest and lowest paid personnel, ALL countries figures are included, not a selection that are convenient.

The book does come to some conclusions, not so to do, would surely have been a cop out, but these have been carefully balanced so that it is not an endorsement of either traditional left or right wing politics. We are not presented with "the World must do this or that"; suggestions as to different routes that might lead to a better place are included. Of course, reading this, or any other book does not give one all the solutions, but what it does do, is change one's perspective on the problem and show the futility of the us and them approach so commonly in use today. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Feb 11, 2015 |
Less concrete when compare to "The Price of Inequality" but spread the same message in a different way.

Chats and chats and chats that compare why people living in less equality would make them less happy, less trusting.

Just started on the first 4 chapters, already like it.

Money mean less for a society when it already well fed. But then you are less happy when you are much poorer than your neighbors.

Overall, it sucks for all people when society is too unequal.

Will come back after I read a few more chapters. ( )
  XOX | Jul 24, 2014 |
I can't fault the premise of this book - that the most equal societies are the best for everyone at all levels of society. I'd already come to this conclusion after reading a whole bunch of feminist stuff, in which I have seen that societies in which women have the most power just happen to be the best for everyone, including men.

But this book highlights many of the less expected ways in which inequality of income benefits society. There are intuitive consequences of equality, like less incarceration, for instance. But I'd never connected equality right back to bullying in schools, nor to obesity, for that matter.

On the topic of women and equality, Japan was consistently noted as an outlier in this respect, being both an egalitarian society and a society in which women are not equal with men. Of course, this is measured by female participation in politics and the workforce.

Although no outsider would ever be able to say that they 'understand Japan', I do have experience with that country -- enough to know that the role of women is different from that in the West, and I understand that Japanese housewives and mothers do have a certain status that is not afforded Western women who choose that for ourselves. In the West, mother is not a recognised occupation. We're expected to do more than that -- everything (as explained by Virginia Haussegger in Wonder Woman, as it happens, which I just read.)

I'm not suggesting that I desire the Japanese model of 'female equality' over here in the West, but it is simplistic to put Japan in the same category as other countries with similar low rates of women in powerful occupations. Women in Japan have plenty of power and respect. It's just not where we might expect to find it. Likewise, Western women don't have as much power as we like to think we do, but that's a story for a different time.

To my mind, this makes Japan less of an outlier than the authors suggest, and only goes to further the cause for equality. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
The ideas in this book are very interesting, but unfortunately the book itself is poorly written. It would be a better read if it just limited itself to the facts and left out all the vague explanations of the reasons why the facts are the way they are. ( )
  maartekes | Jan 1, 2014 |
This is a must read book for everyone hence the rating. I would like to unreservedly recommend it but I cannot. It is a hard read, I kept having to put the book down because my head was hurting too much from all the blows. To say it is evangelical would be an understatement. The authors have their soap box and they are single minded in ensuring the message does not escape anyone. But what an important message, the greater the income inequality the more symptoms of a sick social malaise there are. You name it, violence, mistrust, totalitarianism, obesity, suicide, prison population, under performing children and more much more are all shown to increase the more unequal a society becomes. Contrary to common presumptions, egalitarianism is not a cranky far left fantasy but a very central core community spirit we all aspire to.

Right, got the message but the book bangs on and on, showing more and more statistics that prove incontrovertibly their message. This is where I begin to lose it. When evangelicals thump I tend to get wary and start to look for alternative scenarios. I am not in a position to query let alone challenge their presentation of statistics, it all looks so overwhelming convincing. I not able to nitpick about data spreads, median lines, angles or scale but have to leave that to those that understand. When data is so overwhelming then there just has to be an alternative view. None is offered. There has to be a counter approach, there has to be historical evidence that gainsays their gospel, there has to be recent changes that run counter to their all encompassing answer, inequality. It is human nature to screw up and overlook the alternate view point.

Nethertheless the message is highly important with significant implications for our society, where it is and what has to happen. We should all get our minds around the issues raised. It was with some relief when three quarters of the way through the book suddenly changed tack and began to widen its view and looked in a more expansive way as to how their findings work and are relevant. Great, I could begin to enjoy the read again. Unfortunately they found a new soap box, climate change and began again to thump away. Well meaning, earnest, very serious in intent and purpose. Maybe just not gifted writers for the masses. Yet clearly that was their intended audience with a book having scholarly origins but dumbed down for an all to read. Pity and equally well-done. At least they have made digestible the indigestible and in doing so given access to highly significant findings. Inequality damages us all, poor and the rich alike.

In their new edition postscript they do try to respond to all the criticisms aimed at their studies. But for me it is too much of the converted cherry picking what they choose to respond to, what to ignore and appeals to overwhelming numbers supporting the cause. Despite all of what I have said, I urge you, do please read this book. Put it down and then reflect. You may well find it to says deeply significant things about our society and the problems you feel but cannot isolate and expound. It did for me. ( )
1 vote tonysomerset | Mar 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This cultural context goes some way to explaining the stir caused by “The Spirit Level” since its publication last year. The book’s authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, seek to show that “more equal societies almost always do better”. ... The debate is proving useful by exposing flaws in thinking on both the left and the right, and among voters generally.
added by jcbrunner | editThe Economist, Bagehot (Aug 19, 2010)
The argument of this fascinating and deeply provoking book is easy to summarise: among rich countries, the more unequal ones do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator you can imagine. They do worse even if they are richer overall ... The evidence that Wilkinson and Pickett supply to make their case is overwhelming.
This is a book with a big idea, big enough to change political thinking, and bigger than its authors at first intended. ... They say modestly that since dependable statistics both on health and on income distribution are internationally available, it was only a matter of time before someone put the two together. All the same, they are the first to have done so. ... With the evidence they have supplied, politicians now have a chance to “do genuine good”.
Anyone who believes that society is the result of what we do, rather than who we are, should read these books; they should start with The Spirit Level because of its inarguable battery of evidence, and because its conclusion is simple: we do better when we're equal.
added by jcbrunner | editGuardian, Lynsey Hanley (Mar 14, 2009)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Wilkinsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pickett, KateAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Myllyoja, MarkusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It is a remarkable paradox that, at the pinnacle of human material and technical achievement, we find ourselves anxiety-ridden, prone to depression, worried about how others see us, unsure of our friendships, driven to consume with litle or no community life.
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This book based on years of researc h provides evidence to show how almost everything - from life expectancy to mental illness, violence to literacy is affected not by how wealthy a society is but how equal it is. It also show that societies with a bigger gap between the rich and poor are bad for everyone in them including the well-off. The book provides information on how we can find positive solutions and move towards a happier, fairer future.
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This eye-opening UK bestseller shows how one single factor--the gap between its richest and poorest members--can determine the health and well-being of a society. The authors also outline a new political outlook in which a shift from self-interested consumerism to a friendlier, more sustainable society is paramount.… (more)

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