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Unlike terms such as “capital” or “class power”, the word “equality” is practically designed to lead to half-measures and compromise.One can imagine overthrowing capitalism or breaking the power of the state, but it’s very difficult to imagine eliminating “inequality”.Overwhelming evidence from archaeology, anthropology and kindred disciplines is beginning to give us a fairly clear idea of what the last 40,000 years of human history really looked like, and in almost no way does it resemble the conventional narrative.
There seems to be a consensus, among the intellectual and political classes, that levels of social inequality have spiralled out of control, and that most of the world’s problems result from this, in one way or another.
Pointing this out is seen as a challenge to global power structures, but compare this to the way similar issues might have been discussed a generation earlier.
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Most see civilisation, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity.
Some dream of returning to a past utopia, of finding an industrial equivalent to “primitive communism”, or even, in extreme cases, of destroying everything, and going back to being foragers again.Since at least the days of the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it has framed what we think the overall shape and direction of human history to be.This is important because the narrative also defines our sense of political possibility.We love hearing hunting stories almost as much as we love hunting ourselves.This section of go is 100% dedicated to sharing the greatest stories from our community.First, that there is a thing called “inequality”; second, that it is a problem; and third, that there was a time it did not exist.Since the financial crash of 2008 and the upheavals that followed, the “problem of social inequality” has been at the centre of political debate.But no one challenges the basic structure of the story.There is a fundamental problem with this narrative: it isn’t true.The latter, we are supposed to believe, is just the inevitable effect of inequality, and inequality, the inevitable result of living in any large, complex, urban, technologically sophisticated society.That is the real political message conveyed by endless invocations of an imaginary age of innocence, before the invention of inequality that if we want to get rid of such problems entirely, we’d have to somehow get rid of 99.9 per cent of the Earth’s population and go back to being tiny bands of foragers again.