History of Inequality

The human condition has so far been a fundamentally unequal one. Indeed, all known societies have been characterized by inequalities of some kind, although of course the extent and type of inequality has been quite variable. The available historical scholarship on inequality is wide-ranging and covers hunting and gathering societies, agrarian societies, and industrial societies.

Hunting and gathering societies

Are hunting and gathering societies properly understood as examples of "primitive communism?" Was there much political and economic inequality during this period? Were status and prestige meritocratically achieved?

Agrarian societies

Are feudal societies correctly depicted as highly rigid and almost caste-like in character? Are Asiatic forms of agrarianism best understood as a "dictatorship of officialdom?"

Industrial societies

Why did egalitarian ideologies emerge and flourish during the industrial period? How were these ideologies reconciled with classical liberal formulas that represented inequality as the natural outcome of competition among individuals with differing abilities, motivation, or moral character? Why did Marxism rise and fall?

"When the rich wage war it is the poor who die." - Jean-Paul Sartre


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