The causes of inequality: why social epidemiology is not enough

Spring 2018

This (sympathetic) critique of Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s equality thesis argues that although the strong correlation they make between degrees of income inequality and the distribution of health and other measures of well-being makes an important argument for equality, its problem is that it focuses on correlations rather than causes: inequalities and their correlated harms are seen as respective causes and effects of each other. It is more useful to see both of them as the effects of entities which do possess causal powers, namely social structures and agents. To challenge inequality requires a recognition of the structures of power that produce it. The critical sociology that analyses power in this way has been displaced, however, and thus epidemiology has become the main sociological champion of equality.

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