ROOTS of Inequalities: Social, Economic, and Environmental developments

Modern market economies are characterized by substantial wealth inequality. This is subject to contemporary concerns in relation to the exploitation of work forces, violent conflicts, and mass migration, to provide a few examples. Studying past forms and dynamics of inequality enhances our understanding of present social inequality and its consequences. The deep history of social inequality has been studied in archaeology, anthropology, and history, using different elaborate theoretical approaches. However, an enduring concern is the integration of empirical data from past archives. ROOTS of Inequalities develops innovative methods to identify social inequalities and creates a comparability of archives to enable a diachronic, empirically-based view on past inequality.

ROOTS of Inequalities aims at a systematic scrutiny of:

  1. evidence for and the measurement of inequality and its spatial and temporal variation. How can we measure inequality as a social variable across different past socio-environmental scenarios? ROOTS of Inequalities identifies suitable proxies and scenarios to measure social inequality in the past. For this purpose, multiple data must be integrated in order to analyse inequality. An interdisciplinary approach will develop a theoretical framework in order to make the evidence comparable across large spatial-temporal dimensions;
  2. the dynamics of the emergence, persistence, change, and dissolution of inequality. How and why did social inequality emerge and widen? ROOTS of Inequalities identifies the underlying incentives to accept, resist or obstruct the distribution of power and assets under different conditions;
  3. societal consequences of inequality. Can we define limits of social coherence? In this respect, both the co-occurrence of different dimensions of inequality and the role of inequalities in affecting the development of societies will be investigated.

The synergy of multiple disciplines and the deep historical perspective will enhance our knowledge of factors that trigger inequalities as well as our knowledge of their interrelations, about the short-term and long-term as well as local and global consequences of different inequality regimes. The main challenge is the connection of the conceptual elaboration to the archaeological and historical empirical data.



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