Wikinson & Pickett (2010) The Spirit Level

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Wikinson & Pickett (2010) The Spirit Level

Postby llamagirl on Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:49 pm

This book examines the link between economic inequality and social and health outcomes. The authors have carried out a study based on data taken from several of the worlds richest countries and suggest that it is the degree of economic inequality rather than the absolute level of the top and bottom that affects the outcomes. They argue that a more equal society benefits all members of that society, rich and poor. It also discusses the connection between equality and sustainability. It is an optimistic book that claims that self interest and greed are not inherent traits of human nature, that inequality is not an inevitability, and that change towards equality is possible through a bottom up process. The authors have founded an equality trust http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk.
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Re: Wikinson & Pickett (2010) The Spirit Level

Postby Andrea on Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:00 pm

Thanks for the tip off to the book and the link to their website! I've had a look at the website and it's packed with absolutely fascinating stuff. I will also put in an order for the book. :)

One of the issues that I am struggling with is in developing a coherent argument for the advantages of organising social systems according to an egalitarian (highly clustered) network as opposed to an individualistic (scale free) one. After the individualistic network hardsell of T214's block 1 and Barrabasi's Linked ("the rich-get-richer phenomenon naturally leads to the power laws observed in real networks"), I've become increasingly worried by the promotion of individualistic/scale free networks as a natural phenomenon and unstoppable:

Do [company] mergers make sense? Not if you listen to anti-globalisation activists, who accuse big corporations dictating everything from policy to fashion. They are unavoidable, however, if we view the economy as a complex network, whose nodes are companies and whose links represents the various economic and financial ties connecting them. Indeed, in a network economy hubs must get bigger as the network grows. To satisfy their hunger for links, nodes of the business web learn to swallow the smaller nodes, a novel method unseen in other networks. As globalisation pressures the nodes to grow bigger, mergers and acquisitions are a natural consequence of an expanding economy [Barabassi (2003) Linked. p.200


Just substitute the theme of companies and mergers with people and their livelihoods, and you can see how uncontrolled scale free networks can rapidly create gross inequalities. According to Barabasi and Noughton, this is an unstoppable, natural phenomenon that should be encouraged, and indeed, it fits perfectly well with the dominant and unquestioned neoliberal agenda. Reading through the equality trust website, I'm not so sure whether organising society around individualistic, scale free networks is such a good idea......
esse sequitur operari
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Re: Wikinson & Pickett (2010) The Spirit Level

Postby Andrea on Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:21 am

Great documentary on BBC Radio 4 last night on the Spirit Level: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00v6lkp

The whole debate reminded me so much of the debate on climate change: scientists, in an attempt to communicate such an urgent issue to the public, oversimplify the complexity, which then allows interest groups that want to maintain the status quo to counter-attack with a focus on rather trivial points.

It's the perennial dilemma: should scientists attempts to communicate complex understandings of the situation (which in most cases sends everybody to sleep) or should they develop a clear, simple message (that grabs the public's attention) which then allows reactionaries to undermine the whole thesis?
esse sequitur operari
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