About Prof. Richard G. Wilkinson and this TKS episode:
Prof. Richard Wilkinson is a Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School, Honorary Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at the University of York. He also co-founded The Equality Trust, which works to reduce economic and social inequality through analysing and disseminating the latest research, promoting robust evidence-based arguments and supporting a dynamic network of campaign groups across the country. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, Prof. Richard Wilkinson discusses his career that spans over 40 years, chatting about his two seminal books written in collaboration with Kate Pickett; The Spirit Level and The Inner Level. He talks to Hussain about his incredible body of work both inside and outside of academia. Richard uses his insight and knowledge to discuss climate change and the pandemic, showing how both expose the vast inequality that persists in society, and the clear lack of government action to tackle this. Watch to see Richard unpacking his core argument that remains, and which requires more than ever, campaigning towards—the fact that equality is better for us all.
A brief synopsis:
Richard starts by covering his background in epidemiology. He then begins unpacking his research that provides a wealth of statistics on the impact of inequality on multiple societies. In his research about health, social and economic inequalities, he explains that he found more equal societies to have lower death rates than unequal ones. The data Richard provides us with is shocking, for example, he shows that in the US people spend twice as much on healthcare and medication than any other rich country, but have a lower life expectancy. Listen to hear him explore these stats in more depth. Richard explains this further in his book co-authored with Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level. In writing this book that explicitly showed how much better off everyone would be in a more equal society, he tells Hussain that he couldn’t sit back and do nothing. Thus, he co-founded The Equality Trust.
The conversation then shifts towards critiquing the role of the governments and politicians in tackling problems like climate change, and how this is unavoidably linked to inequality. He explains how activism is instrumental in forcing governments to be better:
Inequality and the pandemic:
Richard describes how COVID-19 highlighted the ruptures that exist in society. He notes how it seemingly made people aware of the explicit health inequalities between different social, economic, and ethnic groups.
Richard critiques the belief that the pandemic acted as an equaliser across different social groups, making it clear that COVID-19 only increased wealth inequality. We ask, how many more millionaires now exist following the pandemic?
Richard outlines that inequality in society only works to develop problems like consumerism, corruption, and sustains the importance of money above all else. He talks about this within a neoliberal context, emphasising the depressing impact of capitalism on climate change.
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TKS take home points:
In this TKS episode, we are given a comprehensive insight into the workings of inequality, and the detrimental impact it has on individuals and society as a whole. Inequality creates social tensions and increases the difficulty of dealing with problems like climate change. Depoliticising inequality removes its responsibility from the realm of politicians and governments, allowing harmful policies to persist and further entrench it. He shows how inequality goes hand in hand with corruption. Prof. Richard G. Wilkinson believes that we need to continue to raise awareness, campaign, and be actively conscious that all our decisions and actions affect the people around us and only together can we overcome the problems we face in this unequal world.
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