Relative and chronometric dating techniques
Still, even as researchers have gradually come to a consensus on such questions, they remain strangely reluctant to announce their findings to the public – or even scholars in other disciplines – let alone reflect on the larger political implications.As a result, those writers who are reflecting on the ‘big questions’ of human history – Jared Diamond, Francis Fukuyama, Ian Morris, and others – still take Rousseau’s question (‘what is the origin of social inequality? Since the financial crash of 2008, of course, and the upheavals that followed, the ‘problem of social inequality’ has been at the centre of political debate.It allows one to tinker with the numbers, argue about Gini coefficients and thresholds of dysfunction, readjust tax regimes or social welfare mechanisms, even shock the public with figures showing just how bad things have become (‘can you imagine?0.1% of the world’s population controls over 50% of the wealth!In fact, it’s not obvious what doing so would even mean, since people are not all the same and nobody would particularly want them to be.‘Inequality’ is a way of framing social problems appropriate to technocratic reformers, the kind of people who assume from the outset that any real vision of social transformation has long since been taken off the political table.Material possessions are few, but the world is an unspoiled and inviting place.
Most see civilization, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity.
Almost everyone knows this story in its broadest outlines.
Since at least the days of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it has framed what we think the overall shape and direction of human history to be.
It goes something a little like this: As the curtain goes up on human history – say, roughly two hundred thousand years ago, with the appearance of anatomically modern – we find our species living in small and mobile bands ranging from twenty to forty individuals.
They seek out optimal hunting and foraging territories, following herds, gathering nuts and berries.’), all without addressing any of the factors that people actually object to about such ‘unequal’ social arrangements: for instance, that some manage to turn their wealth into power over others; or that other people end up being told their needs are not important, and their lives have no intrinsic worth.