Prof. Ian Morris: Each Age Gets The Inequality It Needs

Submitted by spaceman spiff on March 27, 2016

I thought libcommers might be interested in this latest right-wing theory on inequality. It seems to be a rather new theory, very similar to Guns, Germs, and Steel, and it seems to me to be a bourgeois, determinist view of history.

I stumbled on Morris' theory in his lecture: Each Age Gets the Inequality It Needs: 20,000 Years of Hierarchy

The blurb for the lecture states that "the way a society produces energy creates the 'right' amount of inequality for it to thrive, from foraging groups to the Roman Empire."

I was quite put off at first by his seeming value judgment and apparent argument from nature - ie: what happened historically was the most efficient way for it to happen. But listening to the lecture he qualifies this a bit by saying that it isn't the 'morally right' but 'factually right' amount of inequality that would allow societies in certain periods to thrive over their competitors.

Essentially, his argument is:

People's opinions on hierarchy and inequality are based on how they extracted fuel from nature.
Foragers: no wealth or power inequality, but some gender inequality
Farmers: high wealth and power inequality, and high gender inequality
Fossil fuel users: low wealth and power inequality, and low gender inequality

He says that there are some exceptions to these patterns, but that we should look at the most successful examples of each society.
He relates the current economic crises to the fact that we have exceeded some sort of ideal level of inequality for how our economies work. He explains away exceptions to his 'pattern' by saying that each society was free to choose whatever system they wanted to, but that what they chose was not necessarily the 'best level of inequality' that would allow them to organize large-scale labour.

He also makes a snide comment putting down Corbyn and Sanders, so he's obviously right-wing.