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The Great Leveler

Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

How only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout world history

Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality. The "Four Horsemen" of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century. Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.

An essential contribution to the debate about inequality, The Great Leveler provides important new insights about why inequality is so persistent—and why it is unlikely to decline anytime soon.

Customer Reviews

Interesting, but too much stats

"The Great Leveler" is an interesting book with a well founded and supported premise linking the disruptive impact of violence, mainly war and revolution, on wealth accumulation and equality in societies. Extremely broad in its scope, going back to ancient times and encompassing cultures from around the world. But, the author overloaded much of the book with way too many statistics, which then swamped his points and analyses. I have to admit I only got through about 200 pages, a little more than 1/3 of the book, before I lost interest. Perhaps I'll be able to return to reading or skim through to the highlights to re-assess my review when I have more time.

The Great Leveler
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  • $24.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: World
  • Published: Jan 09, 2017
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 528 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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