Small Causes, Large Structures. A New Look at the Roots of Social Inequality in Human Societies
AbstractTheoretical discussions of the causes of social inequality still rely largely on frameworks first formulated in the 19th century by Marx, Spencer and Durkheim. For very different reasons these authors arrived at similar conclusions which influenced much subsequent theorizing: inequality structures in human societies were believed to arise from single causes, to impose themselves inevitably on human affairs, and to follow predictable developmental pathways. This paper proposes a new theory which explores elements missing from conventional theories: the role of contingency and chance in the growth of inequality structures, self-reinforcing dynamics and processes of intentional social control which consolidate them, and the indeterminate historical pathways of the evolution of distributive structures. These characteristics also suggest the need to explore alternatives for social change and distributive justice.
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