The TORCH Crisis, Extremes, and Apocalypse network are hosting a talk on “Equality, Catastrophe, and the Great Disequalization: Reading Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality in light of Recent Work in Human Paleontology, Anthropology, and Economics” with Professor Darrin McMahon (Dartmouth College).
This paper will examine Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality in light of recent work in human paleontology, anthropology, and economics. This work, which collectively chronicles a dramatic departure from the relative equality of Paleolithic hunter/gatherer societies to the “creation of inequality” in the late Neolithic period, provides a startling confirmation of a number of Rousseau’s central insights about the passage of early humans to more complex societies. Rousseau’s sobering vision of inequality’s end, moreover, bears consideration in light of this same work’s reflections on the history of inequality in human societies since the Stone Age.
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