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.

Walter Scheidel—The Great Leveler - Violence And The History Of Inequality From

  • 9780691165028