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

The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century Audiobook, by Walter Scheidel Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Walter Scheidel Narrator: Joel Richards Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Series: Princeton Economic History of the Western World Series Release Date: October 2017 ISBN: 9781541484139
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How only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout world history

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 twentieth 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.

An essential contribution to the debate about inequality, The Great Leveler provides important new insights about why inequality is so persistent―and why it is unlikely to decline anytime soon.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Sweeping and provocative.”

    New Yorker

  • "[Scheidel] draws on mountains of data to examine the social, economic and political forces that have been responsible for the growth of material inequality—and those that have reduced wealth…Fascinating.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Scheidel’s excellent survey has the merit of drawing evidence from the smallest scrap—height in burial sites, records of wages or rations, differences in house sizes over time, for example.”

    New Scientist

  • Longlisted for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature
  • A Finalist for the Financial Times Books of the Year for 2017
  • McKinsey Business Book of the Year Finalist for 2017

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About the Author

Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. The author or editor of over fifteen books, he has published widely on premodern social and economic history, demography, and comparative history.

About the Narrator

Joel Richards was the kid who did crazy things just to have a good story to tell afterward. On deciding to make his affection his profession, he received a BFA in acting and a BA in English from the University of Utah. He has narrated over 300 audiobooks and continues to tell his original stories to live audiences.