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Affluence versus Equality? A critique of Wilkinson and Pickett’s book ‘The Spirit Level’
O'Connell, Michael F.
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. Not applicable
Keyword(s): Equality; Inequality; Affluence; Economic growth; Gender; Consumerism; Equality--Economic aspects; Wealth--Moral and ethical aspects; Economic development; Consumption (Economics)
Publication Date:
Type: Working paper
Peer-Reviewed: Unknown
Language(s): English
Institution: University College Dublin
File Format(s): other; application/octet-stream
First Indexed: 2012-08-25 05:19:40 Last Updated: 2018-10-11 15:37:20