• The Great Leveler

  • Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century
  • By: Walter Scheidel
  • Narrated by: Joel Richards
  • Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-10-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.3 (87 ratings)

Regular price: $17.49

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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.
©2017 Princeton University Press (P)2017 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"Sweeping and provocative." ( New Yorker)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Varun on 02-10-18

Content is not suitable for an Audiobook

The narrator has done a good job, but the content of the book is too technical to be suited to the style of delivery of an audiobook. I highly recommend that you read rather than listen to this book. There are many details and it becomes difficult not to get lost and stay focussed as the content is narrated.

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11 of 13 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Lauren L on 04-03-18

As depressing as it is convincing

Mr Scheidel makes a controversial case - at least for those of us not well versed in this aspect of economics - and he makes it so convincingly that The Great Leveler is in fact a very dry read. Nonetheless the fundamental revelation (for that is what it is for me) about inequality and the forces conspiring to increase it, is powerful.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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3 out of 5 stars
By Ras on 11-28-17

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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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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5 out of 5 stars
By Cuinn Herrick on 06-22-18

Emperical analysis of the problem

Excellently presented ideas. Would have liked it presented in chronological order though as I unexpectedly learnt so much history from this book.

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3 out of 5 stars
By steve on 05-17-18

The main ideas are interesting but....

Downloaded this after hearing Jordan Peterson mention it constantly. I guess it has some valuable ideas but it's one of those things I think you could really get to the heart of in a few pages. Most of the book is then a historical exercise in backing up those ideas which is super boring unless you're obsessed with the subject. And unless you're an anthropologist or something like that it's really hard to judge the veracity of the author's conclusions as he doesn't seem to be trying too hard to test his theory, more that he's gathering evidence for it. I'm definitely not suggesting that he's wrong just that it all seems to go in one direction the whole time.

I'll be honest, I'm not obsessed with the subject and gave up in the end. It was too much like trying to eat a bowl of cardboard, just chewing your way through it for the sake of getting to the end.

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