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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Walter ScheidelDickason Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University; Author, "The Great Leveler"
Walter Scheidel is Dickason professor in the humanities, professor of classics and history, Catherine R. Kennedy and Daniel L. Grossman fellow in human biology and director of graduate studies in classics at Stanford University. His research focuses on ancient social and economic history, with particular emphasis on historical demography, labor and state formation. More generally, he is interested in comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to the study of the premodern world and has been trying to build bridges between the humanities, the social sciences and the life sciences. His latest book is "The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century" (Princeton University Press, Jan. 24, 2017).
“"" For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years,” Scheidel writes, “peace, stability and development have rewarded those at the top of the food chain more than anybody else. Profits from business, connections and power multiplied in the hands of the few and passed between generations. But the inverse is also true: Every time the gap between rich and poor narrowed ― during the two world wars, for example ― there was massive violence, a shock to the established order.”
“Yet,” he continues, “inequality” is “resilient” ― it “regularly advances once violent shock retreats.” Despite our idealistic hopes, Scheidel concludes, there is no reason to believe the future will be any different than the past: “Once genetic and cybernetic enhancements of the human body migrate from the domain of science fiction to real-life labs and clinics, the well-off will inevitably be in the best position to take advantage of these offerings, both for themselves and their offspring.”/.../