100 Ways of Seeing an Unequal World

Bob Sutcliffe

Zed Books 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003 http://dannyreviews.com/
100 Ways of Seeing an Unequal World actually offers 123 perspectives on world inequality, each consisting of a two-page presentation with a graph or graphs on the left and explanation and interpretation on the right. The topics covered range across production, income and trade, demographics and health, agriculture, environment, refugees and repression. Sutcliffe pays special attention to regional (rather than just international) and gender inequalities, and attempts to set comparisons in a historical perspective. Some of the graphs take traditional forms, such as maps with different shadings, while others use less familiar formats, for example radial graphs allowing presentation of different figures. They are mostly clear and effective, though the restriction to black and white is limiting.

He makes no attempt to present any general argument about inequality, but Sutcliffe has, as he himself puts it, "an implicit but obvious egalitarian standpoint". This rarely colours his analysis — one colourful exception is a presentation of data on the "hyper-rich" from Merrill Lynch in which he describes "High Net Worth Individuals" as "a euphemism no doubt designed to expunge the memory of adjectives traditionally associated with the rich such as 'filthy' and 'stinking'". Figures are taken from "the most reliable possible sources", of which the most frequently cited are organisations such as the World Bank, OECD, IMF, UN, WHO, UNDP, and FAO. Sutcliffe sometimes comments on the context and biases of statistics — for example the IMF's recent fondness for the Human Development Index, use of which emphasizes convergence between countries, and the UNDP's preference for exchange rate comparison of incomes, which emphasizes inequality.

Each double-page spread is independent, which makes for easy browsing. There's not much room for elaboration in a page, and the interpretations and explanations are often frustratingly slender. Sources for the data are given, but there are no "further reading" suggestions — recommendations of one or two articles or books with each graph would have been nice. There's also some annoyingly sloppy editing. But the approach is effective in conveying information, or perhaps new ways of looking at familiar facts. 100 Ways of Seeing an Unequal World should be in every school library and may also be useful for university students studying development.

January 2003

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%T 100 Ways of Seeing an Unequal World
%A Sutcliffe, Bob
%I Zed Books
%D 2001
%O paperback
%G ISBN 185649814X
%P 287pp