Affluence versus Equality? A critique of Wilkinson and Pickett’s book ‘The Spirit Level’

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Title: Affluence versus Equality? A critique of Wilkinson and Pickett’s book ‘The Spirit Level’
Authors: O'Connell, Michael F.
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Date: Sep-2010
Online since: 2010-09-29T15:23:44Z
Abstract: The Spirit Level made strong claims that in developed countries, income growth was no longer important and the focus should turn to income differentials within society. Putting affluence before parity and solidarity led to the rise of widespread anxiety, insecurity and social dysfunction. In this paper, six problems are identified with the argument made in the Spirit Level: 1. There is no conflict between wealth and equality. In fact they tend to be highly correlated (i.e. wealthy societies are far more egalitarian than poorer societies); 2. Correlational data are relied upon to imply causal direction; 3. The focus on income inequality ignores the role of savings and state services; 4. There is no evidence that people are systematically stigmatised by buying ‘second-class’ goods; 5. Investment in ‘luxuries’ in wealthy countries have unforeseen consequences in raising living standards in poorer countries, e.g. the mobile phone; 6. The status of women is far more highly associated with a country’s wealth than its level of inequality.
Funding Details: Not applicable
Type of material: Working Paper
Keywords: EqualityInequalityAffluenceEconomic growthGenderConsumerism
Subject LCSH: Equality--Economic aspects
Wealth--Moral and ethical aspects
Economic development
Consumption (Economics)
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Psychology Research Collection

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