Thursday 2 April 2009

The Spirit Level

I was at the Alternative G20 summit last night at, well in the grounds of, UEL. Disappointly UEL pulled out due to fears over protests. It was a shame because I was looking forward to a decent academic discussion of the issues. In the end it was more like a rally, led by suspended anthropologist Prof Chris Knight from UEL. Tony Benn, Oliver Tickell and Mark Thomas turned up and said all of the usual leftist common sense stuff they usually say, but I want to talk about Prof Richard Wilkinson a social scientist from University of Nottingham. He, along with Kate Pickett, has just published a book called 'The Spirit Level' looking at the impact of inequality on all members of society. We live in an increasingly inequal society, there is a big gap between rich and poor, but we all have, theoretically, the same opportunity to be rich. The truth as Malcolm Gladwell and Oliver James have previously also said is that we do not have equal opportunities, therefore the 'freer' the market the more widespread the 'Status Anxiety' (de Botton). There is a lot more depth to it than this, but basically our aspirations for a 'lifestyle', driven by individualism and Thatcherism, have the effect of us always looking 'upwards' and wanting the next best thing.

You can listen to the lecture that Wilkinson might have drawn on last night on the RSA website here I can't find the powerpoint slideshow yet, which I think will be useful.

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