Energy, Hierarchy and the Origin of Inequality

Energy, Hierarchy and the Origin of Inequality
Fix, Blair. (2018). Working Papers on Capital as Power. No. 2018/09. December. pp. 1-47. (Article - Working Paper; English).

Full Text Available As:
Cover Image

Download (8kB) | Preview
PDF (Full Text)

Download (10MB) | Preview
[img] Other (Data and analysis; virus-free zip file)

Download (260MB)

Alternative Locations,

Abstract or Brief Description

Where should we look to understand the origin of inequality? Most research focuses on three windows of evidence: (1) the archaeological record; (2) existing traditional societies; and (3) the historical record. I propose a fourth window of evidence — modern society itself. I hypothesize that we can infer the origin of inequality from the modern relation between energy use, hierarchy, and in- equality. To do this, I create a large-scale numerical model that is informed by modern evidence. I then use this model to project modern trends into the past. The results are promising. The model predicts an explosion of inequality with the transition to agrarian levels of energy use. Subsequent increases in energy use are predicted to have little effect on inequality. The results are broadly consistent with the available evidence. This suggests that the hierarchical structure of modern societies may provide a window into the origin of inequality.



Publication Type

Article - Working Paper


coercion function energy institution size hierarchy numerical model origin of inequality


BN Power
BN Production
BN Civilization & Social Systems
BN Conflict & Violence
BN Cooperation & Collective Action
BN Data & Statistics
BN Distribution
BN Ecology & Environment
BN Growth
BN History
BN Institutions

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

18 Dec 2018 19:07

Last Modified

10 Jan 2019 19:28


Actions (login required)

View Item View Item