Hard Times


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Inequality, Recession, Aftermath

Tom Clark with Anthony Heath

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An analysis of the enduring social costs of the post-2008 economic crisis

2008 was a watershed year for global finance. The banking system was eventually pulled back from the brink, but the world was saddled with the worst slump since the 1930s Depression, and millions were left unemployed. While numerous books have addressed the financial crisis, very little has been written about its social consequences.
Journalist Tom Clark draws on the research of a transatlantic team led by Professors Anthony Heath and Robert D. Putnam to determine the great recession’s toll on individuals, families, and community bonds in the United States and the United Kingdom. The ubiquitous metaphor of the crisis has been an all-encompassing “financial storm,” but Clark argues that the data tracks the narrow path of a tornado—destroying some neighborhoods while leaving others largely untouched. In our vastly unequal societies, disproportionate suffering is being meted out to the poor—and the book’s new analysis suggests that the scars left by unemployment and poverty will linger long after the economy recovers.
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have shown more interest in exploiting the divisions of opinion ushered in by the slump than in grappling with these problems. But this hard-hitting analysis provides a wake-up call that all should heed.

Tom Clark writes daily editorials on politics, economics, and social affairs for The Guardian in London. Anthony Heath is professor of sociology, University of Manchester, and emeritus professor at the University of Oxford.

“A sharply written rebuttal of prevailing orthodoxies about the realities of global economics after 2008.”—Kirkus Reviews

'Excellent: detailed research, a global perspective and a real willingness to approach the evidence fairly.' - Gordon Brown MP, former Prime Minister of the UK

'We live in an age where a return to record profits is assumed to be a return to prosperity for all - Tom Clark has taken that pretty lie and tossed it out the window. It takes an outstanding writer to look at years of data and turn it all into something understandable, and Clark does it with gusto. If you can read Hard Times and not come away thinking things need to change, you might need to consider a career in banking.' - Linda Tirado, author of Hand To Mouth: The Truth About Being Poor in a Wealthy World
‘In charts and numbers alongside heartbreaking human stories, [Clark] paints a portrait of an already deeply divided society riven further between those hit by the slump and those barely noticing it. Clark’s powerful analysis illuminates the social history of recessions, as each one strikes down the same people and places over and over again, enriching the same few as quantitative easing did this time.’—Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

'If you want to know about the enduring damage that recessions can do to ordinary people in unequal societies, then read this book. Hard Times provides a unique combination of hard statistics and fascinating interviews with workers and families that were hit by the big slump. A must read.' - Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century

'Seven years on from the 2008 financial crisis, economic recovery is for many a statistical mirage detached from the reality of stagnant real incomes. Hard Times explains why. Combining meticulous analysis with compelling personal examples, Tom Clark and Anthony Heath illustrate how 2008 accentuated underlying trends towards increasing inequality and insecurity and describe the corrosive pessimism and lack of social cohesion which results. Anyone who wants to understand the weary cynicism with which many people view Britain's political elite should read this book.' - Lord Turner, former Chairman of the Financial Services Authority
"Recessions are like storms, but instead of uprooting trees and damaging property, they uproot lives and damage families. While many politicians encourage us to think the suffering is unavoidable or reflects personal failure, Tom Clark redresses the balance with this well informed, accurate, and readable account of the true human costs."—Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone

Hard Times by Tom Clark ought to be one of the books of the year.’—Nick Cohen, The Observer

"We all know the Great Recession was bad. But Tom Clark reveals just what "bad" means to individual and families at the sharp end. Whether or not you agree with all the conclusions, you cannot ignore this meticulously-documented book."—Chris Giles, Economics Editor, Financial Times
"If you only have time for one book about the damage wreaked by the Great Recession in both the US and the UK, Hard Times is it. It offers sophisticated economics, hard-hitting coverage of greed at the top, and real stories about the enormous hurt inflicted on tens of millions of others. You won’t be able to put it down once you start."—Peter Edelman, former aide to Senator Robert Kennedy, and author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America

‘Narrating their version of what has happened is the purpose of Hard Times. Its power comes not from anecdote but from data. The authors, Tom Clark a Guardian journalist, and Anthony Heath, professor of sociology at Manchester University, have combined academic rigour with a reporter’s eye for the real story to expose what the Great Recession is doing to the fabric of British society, and why politics has failed.’—Rafael Behr, The Guardian

This is a sobering, data-driven examination of rising inequality. . .’—Lucy Fisher,  New Statesman,

“Tom Clark’s dazzling new book offers a powerful reminder that statistical clarity can often hide a much more dire reality… Hard Times proves convincing.”—Florian Bon, LSE Review of Books
ISBN: 9780300212747
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
328 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
30 charts and graphs