I am about two-thirds of my way through the latest book by Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz is a recipient of the Nobel prize in Economics and a former chief economist of the World Bank. But he is not a traditional economist.

First, unlike most academic economists Stiglitz is sympathetic to Leftist ideas. Actually, he is way out on the Left end of the political spectrum. In the beginning of the book Stiglitz talks approvingly of the Occupy movement and Los Indignados. Later there are favorable mentions of such left-wing South American leaders as Inácio Lula and Hugo Chávez, who came to power in some of the most economically unequal countries and managed to reduce the inequality. And Stiglitz inveighs against the ‘Right’ on numerous occasions throughout the book.

This is unusual for an economist, especially such an accomplished one who is (or, at least, has been) part of the ruling elite. Most economists know very well which side of their bread is buttered. It is curious how economic theories that yield answers pleasing to the powerful and wealthy tend to be part of the mainstream, while those yielding uncomfortable answers are relegated to the fringe…

Read more at Social Evolution Forum.

Published On: September 13, 2012

Peter Turchin

Peter Turchin

Curriculum Vitae

Peter Turchin is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics. His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution, historical macrosociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Currently he investigates a set of broad and interrelated questions. How do human societies evolve? In particular, what processes explain the evolution of ultrasociality—our capacity to cooperate in huge anonymous societies of millions? Why do we see such a staggering degree of inequality in economic performance and effectiveness of governance among nations? Turchin uses the theoretical framework of cultural multilevel selection to address these questions. Currently his main research effort is directed at coordinating the Seshat Databank project, which builds a massive historical database of cultural evolution that will enable us to empirically test theoretical predictions coming from various social evolution theories.

Turchin has published 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including a dozen in Nature, Science, and PNAS. His publications are frequently cited and in 2004 he was designated as “Highly cited researcher” by ISIHighlyCited.com. Turchin has authored seven books. His most recent book is Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth (Beresta Books, 2016).

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