Walter Scheidel - Inequality and the endless dance of technology and power


In the third talk of our spring 2021 seminar series, Walter Scheidel (Stanford University, USA) will be sharing insights on the relations between technology, power and inequality. 

Technological change has played a significant role in studies of how economic inequality developed in recent generations. In rare cases, this perspective has been extended several centuries into the past. In his paper, Walter Scheidel employs a long-term perspective going back millennia in trying to weigh the relative importance of technological change and institutional and political power. He also responds to a recent attempt to explain shifts in wage inequality during the last 400 years primarily with reference to technological change, and identifies an open question: given our growing emphasis on political and ideological drivers of inequality, how are we to assess the impact of technology as such?

About the speaker 

Walter Scheidel is Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University (CA, USA). His research ranges from ancient social and economic history and premodern historical demography to the comparative and transdisciplinary world history of inequality, state formation, and human welfare. He is particularly interested in connecting the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences. His recent book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press, 2017), shaped the debate on shocks and inequality in many disciplines. Equally provocative is his The Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2019), fundamentally challenging the idea that large centralized empires were beneficial for human development.

Practical information

This online seminar took place Friday 23 April 2021, from 5 to 6 pm CET.

AIPRIL Seminar Series Spring 2021

Walter Scheidel - Inequality and the endless dance of technology and power