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.
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?
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”.
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.
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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