Update on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, and happiness

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On books / Politics & campaigns on 29 January 2013

In 2009, I reviewed the then-new book, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in the Social Affairs Unit website. I thought the highly-influential and much-quoted work very flawed on just about every level. Until very recently, I hadn’t noticed that intelligent, informed voices had continued to attack the book’s handling of the inquality data. So I thought I’d now provide some sources which may prove useful….

On The Spirit Level: 
My initial review of The Spirit Level was quite a good account of the statistical and ideological problems posed by the book, including links to other reviewers who liked or disliked it.

Since then, Christopher Snowdon has produced a 2010 book, The Spiritual Level Delusion and a periodically-updated blog devoted to evidence on the subject.

One of the most impressive bits of work cited by Mr Snowdon is a late-2012 extensive blog from Colin Mills, an Oxford University sociologist of mildly egalitarian, left-leaning tendencies, who is concerned with The Spirit Level‘s use of evidence and argument.

On the Happiness debate:
2005: RDN on Start the Week talking about his Rich Is Beautiful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/starttheweek_20050418.shtml
2006: RDN on Avner Offer’s The Challenge of Affluence: http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/000889.php
2007: RDN on the data surrounding inequality and well-being:  http://richarddnorth.com/archive/new_stuff/affluenza.htm
2007: RDN on Oliver James’s Affluenza (with some useful links):  http://richarddnorth.com/archive/new_stuff/affluenza.htm
2008: RDN on Oliver James’s The Selfish Capitalist: http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/001692.php
2008: RDN on Robert Frank’s Richistan: http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/001622.php
2010 RDN on Will Hutton’s Them and Us: http://www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/002033.php
2013: RDN on Ferdinand Mount’s The New Few: http://richarddnorth.com/2013/01/rdn-on-mounts-new-few/

 

 

 

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