Spirit Level

Filed Under (General, Research) by ronan on 18-08-2010

 Although I have not yet read this book it is of interest to me because it highlights both the importance of research methodology and indicates that the world of print is alive and well. I was introduced to it when I read recently in the Saturday 14th August Guardian about the rather vociferous debate the title was generating. The authors both from North Yorkshire have apparently succeeded in constructing a convincing argument, based on many years of research it should be said, that demonstrates how inequality contributes to a range of social ills. So well received the book has been that many thinkers on the right have sought to attack the thesis and have published a response see here. This has only served to strenghten and prolong interest in the original text. As a sideshow to this one can see the reviews section for both titles on the Amazon website. Is this a forum for a modern-day version of debate? Both political wings leading up to the May general election appeared to chime in with Wilkinson and Pickett’s view – seeking perhaps some respite from the paucity of economic policies to provide a ‘soft-landing’ for the crashing economy. Yet this book is not a distraction it has in fact some very simple yet challenging ideas – hence the backlash from various quarters on the right. 

In their response to the response as it were, available here  the authors re-affirm their scholarly credentials and in so doing, without a hint of one-upmanship, leave the author of the attack decidedly lacking. Cicero himself would be proud of such tactics. So for those who carry out research and are fortunate enough to reach the point of publishing and being well and widely received there are other aspects that need to be considered. Most urgent is how to construct a defence of your work in the light of a concerted and politically motivated attack. As part of this is the requirement to assert, perhaps with a subtlety, ones credentials and most importantly to have a vehicle through which to communicate e.g. a blog. I look forward to completing the Spirit Level and perhaps submitting a full review to Amazon.

Incidently The Spirit Level  is also the title of a 1995 poetry collection by Seamus Heaney. The poem The Errand page 54 carries the reference to the spirit level – it was one of the recurring jokes on the building sites of London in the early eighties within the Irish communities to send one of the new recruits off to find something unfindable: 

“‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil
And tell your mother to try
To find me a bubble for the spirit level
And a new knot for this tie”

Let’s hope that achieving a more equitable society is not a fool’s errand

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