I recently added Daniel Dorling‘s Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists (2011) to my Classics Club reading list, although I later learned that I was a little behind trend and should have been reading Thomas Piketty‘s post-crisis Capital in the 21st Century, which has been causing rather a rumpus (reviews in the Guardian, Telegraph, and Economist).
I admit that I was a little frustrated, reading Dorling’s book, at the gap between when it was written and the current social and political circumstances in Britain. Inevitably, this sort of book, writing about modern social ills, feels out-of-date quickly, although the core of Dorling’s argument is solid. Updating William Beveridge’s well-known five social evils (squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease), he proposes five ‘modern’ social ills evident in unequal societies: elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair.
The book is densely populated with facts, statistics and charts, not all of which are very readable or digestible. They do, however, serve to depoliticise what is a politically contentious subject. Dorling’s book criticises equally the spectrum of political parties. His book aims to set out how and why his five social ills have become entrenched in common thought, taking aim at private schooling, competition in public services, consumer culture, and a host of other features of modern society. He does not propose, per se, any one approach or set of policies to remedy these ills, but instead seems to be focused on consciousness raising, something that he’s up-front about in the book.
Because it is so politically contentious, and I try to keep this blog apolitical, I’m not going to analyse Dorling’s arguments in depth, or endorse or quibble with any of his conclusions. The spread of reviews on Piketty’s more recent book is pretty reflective of the types of responses Dorling’s received from across the political spectrum. Whether you are ultimately likely to agree or disagree with Dorling’s arguments and conclusions, they are definitely worth a read.