Mind the Gap
The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett -
By Claude S. Fischer
Available online at: http://bostonreview.net/BR35.4/fischer.php
“………..Wilkinson and Pickett, eminent health scholars from the United Kingdom, present considerable evidence correlating unequal incomes in nations or American states with negative outcomes in physical health, mental balance, levels of violence, social integration, teen births, school performance, and just about everything else. Inequality, they explain, makes people focus on status and their relative positions on the prestige ladder.
Such obsessions, in turn, create anxiety, distrust, and social isolation, which raise people’s level of physiological stress. Finally, stress, as we all now know, exacts high costs. It weakens the immune system, for example, and drives people to poor coping behavior such as overeating and lashing out at others. Through these steps, The Spirit Level argues, economic inequality becomes bad for everyone’s health.
But does this psychological explanation really account for the harms of inequality? And just how sure are we that the social ills Wilkinson and Pickett canvass are even caused by inequality? Whether we accept their psychological framework determines to some extent how we will respond to problems of inequality, and in hewing to it, the authors generate some pretty tepid solutions…………”
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