According to Stanford University researchers, it is the very inequities of the class structure that appear to have been behind the spread of those societies and the displacement of more egalitarian cultures during the early era of human civilization.
The researchers used a computer simulation to compare demographic stability and rates of migration for both egalitarian and unequal societies. They found that class structure provided unequal access to resources, thereby contributing a destabilizing effect on the population, and driving migration and the expansion of stratified societies.
"This is the first study to demonstrate a specific mechanism by which stratified societies may have taken over most of the world," said Marcus Feldman, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford. He is a co-author of a research paper on the topic, published online this week by the Public Library of Science in the journal PLoS ONE.
Feldman and his colleagues determined that when resources were consistently scarce, egalitarian societies – which shared the deprivation equally throughout the population – remained more stable than stratified societies. In stratified societies, the destabilizing effect of unequal sharing of scarce resources gave those societies more incentive to migrate in search of added resources.
In environments where the availability of resources fluctuated from year to year, stratified societies were better able to survive the temporary shortages because the bulk of the deprivation was absorbed by the lower classes, leaving the ruling class – and the overall social structure – intact. That stability enabled them to expand more readily than egalitarian societies, which weren't able to adapt to changing conditions as quickly.
Many possible causes for the development of socioeconomic inequality have been proposed by scientists, such as a need for hierarchical control over crop irrigation systems, or the compounding of small differences in individual wealth over time through inheritance.
"The fact that unequal societies today vastly outnumber egalitarian societies may not be due to the replacement of the ethic of equality by a more selfish ethic, as originally thought by many researchers," said cultural evolution specialist Deborah Rogers, lead author of the study. "Instead, it appears that the stratified societies simply spread and took over, crowding out the egalitarian populations." The study is a product of her PhD thesis project at Stanford. Feldman was Rogers' adviser.
"This is not just an academic exercise," Rogers said. "Inequalities in socioeconomic status are increasing sharply around the world. Understanding the causes and consequences of inequality and how to reduce it is one of the central challenges of our time."
Feldman, a professor of biology, is the director of the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies at Stanford. Rogers is now a researcher at the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany. Omkar Deshpande, a former computer science PhD student at Stanford, also contributed to the research and is a co-author of the PLoS ONE paper.
Louis Bergeron | EurekAlert!
05.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Research project: EUR 3.3 million for improved quality of life in shrinking cities
02.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.07.2018 | Transportation and Logistics
16.07.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science