The Great Leveler

By Walter Scheidel,

Book cover of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century

Book description

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 it never dies peacefully. The Great Leveler is…

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Why read it?

1 author picked The Great Leveler as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In this book, Walter Scheidel proficiently exploits the new information that we now have available about wealth inequality in the past to make one bold claim: across history, only catastrophes and large-scale violence (the “Great Leveler”) could significantly reduce economic inequality. Otherwise, the concentration of political power and of coercive force in a few hands also led wealth to become ever more concentrated.

This is a rather depressing view, with which I partially disagree for scientific reasons (as it downplays the importance of human agency and of our collective choices).

Nevertheless, I love this book for its scope, its ambition,…

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