By Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett
This is a book with a big idea, big enough to change political thinking, and bigger than its authors’ had first intended. In her Valedictory speech Jeanette Fitzsimons referred to The Spirit Level as an ‘important book’ and recommended it to anyone who wanted to better understand the core Green message of the last 38 years.
The authors, Wilkinson and Pickett, bring together international data based on thirty years of research. Together they demonstrate that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them – the well-off as well as the poor.
“Across whole populations, rates of mental illness are five times higher in the most unequal compared to the least unequal societies. Similarly, in more unequal societies people are five time as likely to be imprisoned, six times as likely to be clinically obese, and murder rates may be many times higher. The reason why these differences are so big is, quite simply, because the effects of inequality are not confined just to the least well-off: instead they are the vast majority of the population.”
This groundbreaking book teaches us how to shift the balance from a self-interested consumerism to a friendlier and more collaborative society. It shows us a way out of the social and environmental problems which beset us, and opens up a major new approach to improving the quality of life for everyone.
The authors cleverly show how sustainability in the face of global warming, and energy/water/food shortages links into the picture and how greater equality would help us towards dealing with these dooming issues. “It falls to our generation to make one of the biggest transformations in human history”. The conclusion of this book is simple-we do better when we’re equal.
Reviewed by Lisa Bazalo, February 2010