The Great Leveler

  • by Walter Scheidel
  • Narrated by Joel Richards
  • 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 20th 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.

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What the Critics Say

"Sweeping and provocative." (New Yorker)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Looked very promising but then disappointing

This book has some interesting contents scattered across the book. For instance, well-known major historical incidences, like wars, revolutions, government reforms, etc are occasionally narrated with interesting stories. However, the book is rather boring as it mainly involves enumeration of one statistics after another. Gini coefficient was mentioned perhaps thousand times! Although, the thesis of the book impressive (wars, certain types of viloence epidemics as temporary levellers of inequality), it is covered in a such dull way that as if it is a report for policy makers in a parliament. In that respect, I got really bored. That was a very promising book for me but in the end I looked forward to finish it and start another book!
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-10-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio