Radio 4 Analysis on Spirit Level

In: Uncategorized

12 Oct 2010

This week’s BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme discusses one of the most debated books of the past year or two: The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (see my review on spiked and various blog posts).

The programme is well worth listening to as it gives a clear overview of the arguments of both sides of the debate. But it suffers from two fundamental and related problems. First, it accepts the characterisation of the debate in traditional terms with Wilkinson and Pickett on the left because they give priority to tackling inequality. Second, it fails to see that the discussion of the topic has moved from a political one – how to make material changes to the market economy – to a therapeutic one.

It is notable that the book’s two authors are social epidemiologists. They see inequality as dangerous as it leads to various types of illness.

There is no notion of politically struggling against inequality. They argue for an evidence-based technocratic approach rather than for a movement for the material transformation of society.