Book Review: The Inner Level

Reviewed by Willard Metzger

COVID-19 has revealed aspects of our society that need repair. We have the opportunity and responsibility to establish a healthier and more sustainable norm.

The Inner Level is a good entry into this debate. The book questions the notion that healthy societies are the outcome of enshrining individual freedom. According to the broad research provided, the greater the gap between the rich and the poor, the unhealthier the society will be. Inequality increases stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. And these are not just ailments experienced by the poor. Inequality damages us all.

Relying heavily on psychology, but presenting a breadth of accumulated research, the book reveals how inequality affects how we think, alters how we feel, and influences how we behave.

The conclusions might elicit critiques of oversimplification. Will all the ills of society really disappear if equality is achieved and maintained? Yet even the skeptic must acknowledge that given the economic growth that has brought us “unprecedented luxury and comfort, it seems paradoxical that levels of anxiety have tended to increase rather than decrease over time.”

Wilkinson and Pickett propose a way to foster more egalitarian societies in terms of income, class, and power. The authors invite us to abandon the false sense of wellbeing generated by materialism and replace it with a way of life that is more fundamentally consistent with our human need and responsibility for healthy community.

As communities of faith, guided by commandments to care for the ‘other,’ such a vision should be easy to embrace.

The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone's Well- Being

By Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
Penguin Books, 2018-07-17

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