Violence and Inequality – Stanford Historian Paints a Grim Picture

South Africa is a violent country, it is also an unequal country. Any publications that tell me a more about possible linkages thus immediately captures my attention. Walter Scheidel, a Professor of History and Classics at Stanford has written  The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, which looks at this theme. I have not yet read the book, but the book announcement offers an insight into the argument. Sheidel argues that:

It is almost universally true that violence has been necessary to ensure the redistribution of wealth at any point in time

He further makes a pessimistic conclusion that:

Reversing the trend toward greater concentrations of income, in the United States and across the world, might be, in fact, nearly impossible.

Let me repeat I have yet to read the book, but it leads me wonder – Violence also creates unequal societies. My country, South Africa is a case in point, with its history of wars, dispossession and oppression. It however raises a foundational issue for public policy in South Africa, and elsewhere – Is a democratic route to a more equal society possible? It is a question that has no easy answers, and blogging about it provides me a way to think this through.

Looking forward to reading the book. To get a glimpse of what the book argues, read the interview with the author – which is refreshing in that it tackles some tough issues.

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