The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

Bloomsbury Publishing USA
28
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Groundbreaking analysis showing that greater economic equality-not greater wealth-is the mark of the most successful societies, and offering new ways to achieve it.

"Get your hands on this book."-Bill Moyers

This groundbreaking book, based on thirty years' research, demonstrates that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them-the well-off and the poor. The remarkable data the book lays out and the measures it uses are like a spirit level which we can hold up to compare different societies. The differences revealed, even between rich market democracies, are striking. Almost every modern social and environmental problem-ill health, lack of community life, violence, drugs, obesity, mental illness, long working hours, big prison populations-is more likely to occur in a less equal society. The book goes to the heart of the apparent contrast between material success and social failure in many modern national societies.

The Spirit Level does not simply provide a diagnosis of our ills, but provides invaluable instruction in shifting the balance from self-interested consumerism to a friendlier, more collaborative society. It shows a way out of the social and environmental problems which beset us, and opens up a major new approach to improving the real quality of life, not just for the poor but for everyone. It is, in its conclusion, an optimistic book, which should revitalize politics and provide a new way of thinking about how we organize human communities.
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About the author

Richard Wilkinson has played a formative role in international research in inequalities in health 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.


Kate Pickett is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of York and a former National Institute for Health Research Career Scientist. She is the co-founder of The Equality Trust. She studied physical anthropology at Cambridge, nutritional sciences at Cornell and epidemiology at Berkeley before spending four years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Bloomsbury Publishing USA
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Published on
Apr 23, 2010
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9781608191703
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Health & Fitness / Health Care Issues
Political Science / Political Economy
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A groundbreaking investigation of how inequality infects our minds and gets under our skin

Why is the incidence of mental illness in the UK twice that in Germany? Why are Americans three times more likely than the Dutch to develop gambling problems? Why is child wellbeing so much worse in New Zealand than Japan? As this groundbreaking study demonstrates, the answer to all these is inequality.

In The Spirit Level Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett put inequality at the center of public debate by showing conclusively that less equal societies fare worse than more equal ones across everything from education to life expectancy. The Inner Level now explains how inequality affects us individually, how it alters how we think, feel and behave. It sets out the overwhelming evidence that material inequities have powerful psychological effects: when the gap between rich and poor increases, so does the tendency to define and value ourselves and others in terms of superiority and inferiority. A deep well of data and analysis is drawn upon to empirically show, for example, that low social status is associated with elevated levels of stress hormones, and how rates of anxiety and depression are intimately related to the inequality which makes that status paramount.

Wilkinson and Pickett describe how these responses to hierarchies evolved, and why the impacts of inequality on us are so severe. In doing so, they challenge the conception that humans are innately competitive and self-interested. They undermine, too, the idea that inequality is the product of "natural" differences in individual ability. This book draws together many of the most urgent problems facing societies today, but it is not just an index of our ills. It demonstrates that societies based on fundamental equalities, sharing and reciprocity generate much higher levels of wellbeing, and lays out the path towards them.
A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
Social Determinants of Health, 2nd Edition gives an authoritative overview of the social and economic factors which are known to be the most powerful determinants of population health in modern societies. Written by acknowledged experts in each field, it provides accessible summaries of the scientific justification for isolating different aspects of social and economic life as the primary determinants of a population's health. The new edition takes account of the most recent research and also includes additional chapters on ethnicity and health, sexual behaviours, the elderly, housing and neighbourhoods. Recognition of the power of socioeconomic factors as determinants of health came initially from research on health inequalities. This has led to a view of health as not simply about individual behaviour or exposure to risk, but how the socially and economically structured way of life of a population shapes its health. Thus exercise and accidents are as much about a society's transport system as about individual decisions; and the nation's diet involves agriculture, food manufacture, retailing, and personal incomes as much as individual choice. But a major new element in the picture we have developed is the importance of the social, or psycho-social, environment to health. For example, health in the workplace for most employees - certainly for office workers - is less a matter of exposure to physical health hazards as of the social environment, of how supportive it is, whether people have control over their work, whether their jobs are secure. A similar picture emerges in other areas ranging from the health importance of the emotional environment in early childhood to the need for more socially cohesive communities. Social Determinants of Health should be read by those interested in the wellbeing of modern societies. It is a must for public health professionals, for health promotion specialists, and for people working in the many fields of public policy which we now know make such an important contribution to health.
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