The End Of Hierarchy? The Inaugural Richard Wilkinson Lecture (7th December)

The first time I saw Richard Wilkinson make a presentation, it was in the summer of 2006 and it included a lot of the evidence that eventually went in to The Spirit Level book. I was struck then by the sheer amount of research and the coherence of it all. It had a huge impact on me and it was the spark that led to the formation of The Equality Trust.

Over 10 years later I had similar feelings as I watched Richard give this lecture last week, kindly hosted by The UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences. As well as covering some of the key insights from The Spirit Level Richard went on to indicate some of the new evidence that will be laid out in his and Kate Pickett’s new book, due out in the summer of 2018, entitled The Inner Level.

As the new book’s title suggests, it seems set to flesh out the adverse impacts that status competition and status anxiety have on us as individuals and which are, unfortunately, intrinsic to living in unequal societies. In particular, there were fascinating insights into the interplay of genetics and environment and intriguing evidence that differences in our abilities are more a reflection of our position in the social hierarchy than they are a cause of it.  

But this is not merely academic enquiry. As Dr Wanda Wyporska (Executive Director of The Equality Trust) noted in her closing remarks, Richard and Kate have always allied activism to their research, not least through the creation of The Equality Trust. Understanding the true nature of inequality and evidencing just how much it damages each one of us (poor, middling and rich alike) is essential if we are to win the argument that inequality must be substantially reduced – and to tip the balance in favour of making it happen. Indeed, once the harm of inequality is very widely understood, it opens up the tantalising prospect of being able to dismantle hierarchy once and for all.  

A film of the lecture is being prepared but, in the meantime, you can see the comments that were made during the evening here on social media. It was an absorbing evening and a strong start to what will be a series of annual Richard Wilkinson Lectures to be given by other expert speakers in the field of inequality and related studies.

Bill Kerry – Supporters & Local Groups Manager