We asked Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett to comment on their current work and ideas that have influenced them…
Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
We have both been thinking about what it will take to make Britain a more equal society. Now that we have the evidence (in The Spirit Level) showing the damage caused by too much inequality, how do we get that message across to the wider public and to the politicians who need to give us a vision of a better society?
What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
Richard has been reading a new manuscript from James Gilligan. He is a former prison psychiatrist, who studies the causes of violence and shows the extraordinary impact of political parties on rates of homicide and suicide in the USA. Kate has been readingInjustice: Why Social Inequality Exists by Daniel Dorling, which describes the ideas and ideologies that allow inequality to persist – ideas of elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair.
What is the most important book/article of ideas that everyone should read and why?
The most important ideas are those which paint a picture of the social and economic changes needed to create a sustainable future and an improved quality of life for us all. Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth and the New Economics Foundation’s The Great Transition set out the changes required to develop a sustainable economy, but these need to be integrated with the social changes we believe can be brought about by greater equality.
And finally, each year we ask everyone involved – audiences as well as speakers – one question. Charles Masterman, Liberal Party politician and journalist, asked in his book The Condition of England 100 Years Ago: “What will the future make of the present?” What is your answer to this?
We hope that in the future, people will look back at our current levels of inequality, our burden of poor health and social problems, our consumerism and our unwillingness to get to grips with climate change, and wonder how we could have remained locked into such dysfunctionality for so long. And that, looking back on the next few years, they turn out to have been the turning point when we realised we could build a better world and made a real commitment to change.