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Science Politics

The Benefits of Inequality 254

Posted by Soulskill
from the depending-on-which-side-of-the-equation-you're-on dept.
New submitter MutualFun sends this article from Science News: Which would you prefer: egalitarianism or totalitarianism? When it comes down to it, the choice you make may not be as obvious as you think. New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren't counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife.
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The Benefits of Inequality

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  • by digsbo (1292334) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:37PM (#47665871)
    So many people refuse to think for themselves. I don't really have a problem with that, except when they persecute me for exercising that right myself.
    • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:24PM (#47667843)

      The very definition of totalitarianism is that you do not get a choice in the matter. This "research" stinks of propaganda that may be part of a slow effort to bring people around to actually welcome totalitarianism.

      • I went and examined the paper, and damn right the /. summary is misleading.

        First one, the researchers don't use the vague term "social inequality". Second, they are merely reporting on the results of a computer model [phys.org], and not on some new archeological findings. From the abstract:

        We model the coevolution of individual preferences for hierarchy alongside the degree of despotism of leaders, and the dispersal preferences of followers. We show that voluntary leadership without coercion can evolve in small groups

  • Bullshit bourgeois propaganda.

    Communism is a classless, stateless society and the road to communism passes through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    • Re:False choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:48PM (#47665965)

      The problem is that the road through the dictatorship of the proletariat is a dead end.

  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:43PM (#47665927)

    We could stop automatically assuming a hierarchy has to involve unequal distribution. Perhaps being at the top of a hierarchy is enough of a social motivator that people would take on those responsibilities without taking an unequal share of everyone else's work?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      Indeed. Under communism, comrade, all pigs will be equal. It's just the pigs at the top will have instant access to executive jets, Zil limos and dashas in the country, while the pigs at the bottom will wait twenty years for a Trabant.

      • by slew (2918)

        Indeed. Under communism, comrade, all pigs will be equal. It's just the pigs at the top will have instant access to executive jets, Zil limos and dashas in the country, while the pigs at the bottom will wait twenty years for a Trabant.

        That would simply be the fact that some pigs are more equal, right [wikipedia.org]?

      • Re:Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mirix (1649853) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:28PM (#47666887)

        Yeah, because the only alternative to American style inequality is Soviet style inequality, right?

        • by smaddox (928261)

          What's the difference, again?

          • in the American style, we can blindfold ourselves with "social mobility".

            Was it Steinbeck who said something along the lines of "Socialism never took off in the US because the poor see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."?

      • it's a dictatorship and/or kleptocracy that happens to use communist rhetoric. Why this fact escapes so many people is beyond me. Maybe it's the 75+ years of indoctrination and thinly veiled McCarthyism...
  • Can't leave (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sowelu (713889) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:44PM (#47665935)

    I don't know about "benefits"...even the abstract says that one of the main triggers to accepting leadership was that the populace had nowhere to go, or that it was too costly to leave.

    • I don't know about "benefits"...even the abstract says that one of the main triggers to accepting leadership was that the populace had nowhere to go, or that it was too costly to leave.

      So really not much has changed. Let's face it if colonizing Mars became possible and cheap tomorrow there would be a mass exodus from the Earth as millions of people left to get away from the dodgy politicians and corporations we all have to put up with today...ironically only to end up with their own dodgy politicians and corporates a century or two later, at least if the colonization of America is anything to go by.

      • There's a Heinlein short story that covers the scenario (still on Earth), but in a independent "reservation" for exiles, called Coventry. Someone opts to go there as punishment for a crime, expecting an individualist anarchic utopia, but finding another little world of corrupt governments, unethical bureaucracies, etc.
        • by rbrander (73222)

          That's what I loved about Heinlein. One time he'd write that, the next time, 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', which is very libertarian. He just posited that the Moon exiles would all just get along and not form into bloods and crips. He really loved thought experiments even when he clearly knew they contained a big assumption; shame so many mistook things like "Starship Troopers" as his serious proposal for government. He wrote a whole essay once about all the other fun ways to restrict franchise:

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Egalitarian also implies no one is in charge. So big projects never get done, no one organizes defenses, no one settles disputes, etc. When someone does step forward and take the lead sometimes the others refuse to follow and will leave, which has happened in some more modern groups like communes.

      • No, egalitarian is not mutually exclusive with meritocratic. Equality of opportunity is one thing, equality of outcome is something very different (and considerably worse). This is a key fact that pretty much all of modern progressivism seems to miss - provide for and protect the weak, encourage and reward the strong, and it'll all work out.

    • by suutar (1860506)

      one trigger to tolerating excessive disparity, that was. In the simulation, if the top isn't skimming off too much, the rank and file are still better off than the egalitarians, which would make the heirarchy worth it even in the absence of difficulty leaving. It's when the top is raking off too much that the rank and file start wanting to jump ship.

    • Either this was a troll submission or a right-leaning submitter desperate for any supporting evidence.

      The article isn't to do with modern inequality at all, but rather how likely societies are to form hierarchies.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. If the choice is to flee or bow your head, many people will do the latter out of practicality. And fighting against totalitarianism is always exceedingly expensive to the individual.

  • by B-Town (740527) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:45PM (#47665939)
    As a rule, I'm skeptical of everything that uses evolution to explain societal structures. Most of the time it just boils down to a nifty story devoid of any evidence. That seems to be the case here: 1) Come up with a point you want prove 2) Rejig the currently accepted but highly unrealistic assumptions in the field until the model gives the desired result 3) Publish! I see this kind of nonsense in economics papers all the time. Heartening to see that we aren't the only ones cursed with pointless theorizing.
    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:40PM (#47666963)

      I was about to write the same thing (sorry, no points to mod you up).

      About the strongest claims from evolutionary sociologists / psychologists / etc. that I'm willing to entertain are of the form "We can see how X could have led to an evolutionary benefit when we assume their world operated like Y. So, if the world really did operate like Y, then maybe evolutionary pressures were a reason X was true." Modulo the plausibility of X and Y having been actually true for a significant fraction of the population being discussed.

      I've sometimes wondered if I'm being too hard on those academics because I don't fully understand their claims, or because they know stuff that I don't. But I find it completely plausible that their community is simply engaged in a huge group-think circle-jerk.

    • by khallow (566160)
      Models aren't evidence by definition. And it's a reasonable concern to consider whether the axioms of evolution apply in the first place.

      The huge obstacle is the assumption that societies have inheritable traits. There are examples of societies that adopt traits from successful past societies. And there are examples of societies that were unable to do because the previous society was far more advanced and the technology was needed to adopt many of the previous society's features (eg, the barbarian kingdo
    • by sd4f (1891894)
      I agree with the top-down perspective, it's especially noticeable that a lot of people try to find only evidence that proves their preconceived opinion, rather than finding evidence to develop an opinion.
    • by suutar (1860506)

      It's not proof of correctness, certainly, but it is evidence of plausibility. How much weight it has is of course up to you.

    • by radtea (464814)

      Most of the time it just boils down to a nifty story devoid of any evidence.

      Yup, and such things belong in novels, not scientific papers: http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-... [amazon.com]

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:48PM (#47665967) Homepage

    Some people assume that totalitarian/hierarchical organizations are simply inherently bad, and "democracy" is inherently good. Really, it's more about the situation and context.

    For example, even in our modern "democracy", our military still uses a top-down hierarchy with a rigid chain of command. There are good reasons for this. When you're in dangerous situations, organization and timing can become vital to the survival of the group, and survival tends to trump social justice. If the military commander has a plan that requires a troop of soldiers move to a particular location in a short amount of time, you don't want people standing around debating, or wondering whether the plan is fair. You need people to follow orders immediately, or else a lot of people might die.

    There have been situations in humanity's past when this would have been true of social/governmental organizations too. If the chief needs everyone to mobilize in order to avert disaster and keep the entire tribe from being wiped out, then you don't want a lot of debate. The whole setup worked pretty well for a while.

    Of course now, things are different. Most of our lives (speaking at least of the people reading Slashdot) are relatively safe and comfortable. We don't need to follow orders immediately and unquestioningly in order to stay alive. Also, our society is larger, and the concentration of power is greater. The danger of taking time for debate is not greater than the danger of a bad ruler with absolute power over a society, so totalitarianism seems like it's not such a great idea.

    • by mlts (1038732) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:38PM (#47666459)

      We really need different organizations. As above, the military needs to be strictly hierarchical. However, the civilian leadership needs to be representative of the people's wants. Here is my proposal:

      Instead of elections, why not have all representatives be picked from a lottery of all citizens, similar to jury duty. Instead of a jury picking a foreman, they nominate and elect a president.

      This way, the elected people are truly a cross section of the governed, voter fraud isn't an issue, and with proper enforcement of bribery laws, the big "campaign donations" that plague the US wouldn't be an issue. After four years, a new lottery takes place, and a new bunch of people get into office.

      • by Lotana (842533)

        You seem to be of the opinion that anyone can competently lead. I do not believe this to be the case. Imagine your lottery picks some jobless guy with mental issues. How about racists or extremists that will make next four years hell for some people they don't like? How about selfish "screw everyone as long as I get rich" types?

        OK, we need to now sort the people into electable/not electable. The criteria would already be a thorny issue. How do you judge competence for such a position? If you seek experience

      • by suutar (1860506)

        I kind of like it. Nothing would get done, because it would be unlikely to get enough people to agree, and most of the time that would be the right thing :)

        Gotta keep a really close eye on the lottery mechanism, though, to prevent stacking the deck.

        But it'll never happen here; the existing system has too many people with too much invested to let that big an amendment pass.

    • by poity (465672)

      This doesn't seem like an issue of "democracy vs totalitarianism" -- it's only about the emergence of hierarchies for group decision making. Democratic republics and dictatorships all have decision making hierarchies, it's just that one set of decision makers is chosen by and has the support of the people (most of them anyway), while the other set choose themselves and is forced on the people.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Well, totalitarianism is universally bad, because it has no place for humans, just for roles. Hierarchical organizations are typically not totalitarianism, as they usually do not dominate your life and there are ways out and you usually had a choice whether to be part of it or not in the first place. As to Democracy, it is pretty bad, but still better than the known alternatives. But "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. - Winston Churchill" applies very

    • There have been situations in humanity's past when this would have been true of social/governmental organizations too. If the chief needs everyone to mobilize in order to avert disaster and keep the entire tribe from being wiped out, then you don't want a lot of debate. The whole setup worked pretty well for a while.

      The Romans had a great way of balancing this. Usually they'd have a few different popular assemblies which would govern (with various checks and balances), but in times of crisis, they'd elect a dictator [wikipedia.org], who essentially had limited power.

      But the dictator was expected to reliquish the power and resign at the end of the crisis. This myth of the ancient good citizen (who, stereotypically, would return to his farm again [wikipedia.org] after the crisis was averted) was instilled in young Romans as an essential civic duty

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:49PM (#47665997)

    Inequality wouldn't be so bad if we had a robust safety net and didn't fuck people at the bottom. It's one thing to be poor, it's another to have to survive day to day worrying about food, shelter, health care, etc. As long as we keep screwing people, any argument defending inequality is completely void of substance or ethics.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Unfortunately, that can be the road to hell. The 3rd Reich grew on providing a lot of jobs for the starving masses. Suddenly they were not starving anymore and they were grateful. See how that turned out. It decidedly needs more to keep thinks in check.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by towermac (752159)

      "It's one thing to be poor, it's another to have to survive day to day worrying about food, shelter, health care, etc."

      No, that's not another thing. That's exactly what 'being poor' means.

      I don't think you've ever been poor, or you would know this.

  • by liquid_schwartz (530085) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:51PM (#47666003)
    as if nothing exists between absolute equality and absolute inequality. "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." - Obi Wan Kenobi
  • Mostly useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by onproton (3434437) <emdanyi&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:56PM (#47666069)
    Yes, Capitalism is the accepted economic system because it produces results; if those same results persist through extreme levels of inequality is a different matter. If what you are trying to say is that the current levels of inequality are actually beneficial for society, I believe most economists would disagree. See The Great Depression, this article [theguardian.com], or this book [amazon.com]. No one knows what they threshold really is, but no one argues that there isn't one.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      That depends on whether you think it's fundamentally inequality or some absolute threshold of poverty that causes people to rebel. When you have like no job, no money and you're short on food, shelter and healthcare for you and your family, then I can imagine becoming an extremist. But the fact that there's people like Bill Gates who have so ridiculously much more money than I'll ever have doesn't really bother me. I have good place to live, a working car, food and drink on my table and sure I could have fu

    • I think if you look you'll find most basic research (e.g. the really expensive stuff that's hard to do) is paid for by your gov't (or European gov'ts if you live in the USA, we've been cutting funding left and right since Reagan...).

      NASA (along with a lot of German Rocket scientists) got us to the moon and DARPA + the Universities created the communication network we're using now...

      I guess Capitalism got us the 99 cent double cheeseburger. Oh wait, it was gov't farm subsidies that make that possible
  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:57PM (#47666077)

    Democracy is just a terrible system of government, but it turns out it's all we can trust ourselves with to not fuck shit up. The vote of a retard counts just as much as the vote of a genius, and that's ridiculous, but what's even more ridiculous is that everything else has turned out worse.

    Ideally we would be ruled by a benevolent artificial intelligence who can determine without outside input what is best for everyone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by onproton (3434437)
      Which is why we don't actually have a democracy, we have a republic, in which all of us have the wonderful freedom to choose between corrupt representative 1, or corrupt representative 2. Perhaps if democracy could be implemented without the polarizing effect of the 2 party system, or in a way that allowed more direct voting on actual issues instead of arbitrarily grouped policies it would be more functional - but then again maybe not.
      • by gweihir (88907)

        I read some while ago that "those on power have banded together against their citizens". Seems to describe things adequately. It becomes more obvious when looking in from the outside: From an European perspective, the two US parties looks so similar that it is hard to distinguish them. Both are basically right-wing conservative parties, the one a tiny bit more extreme than the other, but not in a meaningful way. (I am sure Europe will follow this "model" in due time...)

    • by paulpach (798828)

      Ideally we would be ruled by a benevolent artificial intelligence who can determine without outside input what is best for everyone.

      No. Ideally we would not be ruled at all, and you would be free to do whatever you want as long as you don't harm others.

      • "as long as" signifies a condition that needs to be enforced. I'd rather the enforcer be benevolent.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        Indeed. There is some need for coordination, but that does not mean deciding things for people, just to make sure decisions are made. This can be done in a way that the coordinator just makes sure that everybody concerned gets to participate. A good manager works that way. A bad manager just grabs power.

    • by Rinikusu (28164)

      Furthermore, there are plenty of self-described geniuses who are actually retards, and vice-versa. It's like someone making fun of Hinduism and then espousing the veracity of the fucking Bible.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        That is called the Dunning-Kruger effect: From a certain level of stupidity downwards, people have trouble recognizing how stupid they are, while conversely bright people usually realize how limited they are. Self-assessment is a tricky thing.

    • by suutar (1860506)

      Many things have worked better, as long as the guy on top was capable and uncorrupted. The problem is that eventually there's a successor who can't handle it, and then it all falls down.

      • Many things have worked better, as long as the guy on top was capable and uncorrupted. The problem is that eventually there's a successor who can't handle it, and then it all falls down.

        While this is true, it's also something that can happen easily -- and historically HAS happened many times -- in democracies and other forms of popular government.

        The problem with the masses is that they can always be manipulated and motivated to give up their power to govern themselves, particularly under dire conditions (or conditions that are *claimed* to be dire). Fear is usually the main thing here.

        The ancient Romans had a very good system for dealing with this: the temporary dictator. Usually, t

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Well, with the advent of modern methods of controlling the masses (pioneered in the 3rd Reich and in Stalinism, and now successfully applied in the US, Russia and other nations), democracy is about to lose its only advantage: That it is hard to replace with totalitarianism. Sure, an educated, bright population can still make Democracy work, but that type of population has become exceedingly rare.

  • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:58PM (#47666079) Journal

    Terrible summary and title.

    From TFA:
    Our model predicts that the transition to larger despotic groups will then occur when: (i) surplus resources lead to demographic expansion of groups, removing the viability of an acephalous niche in the same area and so locking individuals into hierarchy; (ii) high dispersal costs limit followers' ability to escape a despot. Empirical evidence suggests that these conditions were probably met, for the first time, during the subsistence intensification of the Neolithic.

    So availability of resources to a minority and the inability to escape cause large despotisms, much like CO2 and Greenhouse gases cause global warming. Climate science should be renamed "The Benefits of Global Warming". Or after a man's parachute fails to open he "realizes the benefits of gravity in assisting his painless disassembly".

    I know it would be odd to ask for editors to, uh, you know, edit.

  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:09PM (#47666179)

    I'll take a meritocracy over a completely egaitarean society any time and I suppose that makes me in favor of inequality but I also reject the kind of society the USA has become where a few have risen to the top and roll boulders down on anybody else trying to rise by his own merit. Now feel free to color me radcal but any meritocracy will eventually become a plutocracy which is why bloody revolutions (pandemics like the black death also work wonders) are necessary at regular intervals to level the playing field. I'm not sure that's quite what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" but it's close.

    • the truly smart people, you're Eisenstein and what have you, are too busy with the incredibly interesting problems they can comprehend to bother with the sort of wealth gathering that you're thinking of when you say "meritocracy". The ones that we're talking about when we say "inequality" aren't all that brilliant. They're loaded with advantages from generations of accumulated wealth. They're rent seekers. The "Investor Class". People who spend their entire day not solving problems or building things or mak
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:17PM (#47666255) Homepage

    The word "equality" is meaningless without the clarification: equality of what? Hair color? Penis size?

    In the context of politics, the following two equalities are usually meant by the arguing sides — even when neither side makes their own meaning explicit:

    Equality of Opportunity versus Equality of Results .

    The "all men created equal" concept is about equality of opportunity: you start with (roughly) the same things as everybody else and whatever you achieve (or not achieve as the case might be) is due to your own industry, frugality, and, perhaps, genes. We might be created equal (subject to gene variations), but what we do after the creation is up to us.

    The equality of results is the opposite: whatever you do, you will have (roughly) the same things at the end: if you are more successful than average, the State will tax you to ensure the results of the less successful aren't too different from yours — a concept lovingly referred to as "spreading the wealth around".

    A large number of politicians made careers of conflating the two equalities — by harping at the absence of latter and implying, the former does not exist. Such demagoguery patently dishonest not only in theory, but also in practice [ft.com]...

  • Small tribes typically ran on some basic math. A charismatic leader would band together with a small group of thugs who would then tax the rest of the tribe right up to but not the breaking point. The idea was to balance having enough thugs that no grouping of the remaining tribe members (except for maybe all) could take them on, while not having too many thugs that the spoils were spread too thin.

    Then if the chief's son took over and didn't understand this balance either he would cut back on the thugs a
  • Gini coefficient (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:46PM (#47666535) Homepage

    This is a naive article. For a better analysis, see "How Asia Works" [amazon.com], which is a comparison of the coastal Asian countries, how they developed, and why. Development requires several phases. One is raising agricultural productivity. There's the heavy-handed approach, which comes in the communist form of collective arms and the capitalist form of big plantations. Then there's the light approach, which involves lots of little services like tractor rental and agricultural agents. (The heavy-handed approach works well only for flat land. Hill operations require too many local decisions.) There's thus a visible relationship between what a country looks like and its Gini coefficient. [wikipedia.org]

    The second phase of development is about industrialization. Where investment goes really matters. Market forces do not direct investment towards overall economic growth, but toward short-term profit. The successful "Asian tigers" all had very directed investment controls, and how well countries did relative to each other depends on how well investment was directed.

    The book has lots of country-by-country comparisons, both statistical and on the ground. It's worth a read.

  • It's human nature (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reboot246 (623534) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:58PM (#47666647) Homepage
    In any group of people some are going to be better at some tasks than others. We put value on those tasks depending on how much they're needed or wanted by society. In a society like we have today, doctors are more valuable than burger flippers so they're paid more. It's not always that simple, but that's the way we tend to perceive it.

    True superiority is actually unifying. False superiority is where the problems come from. When the king (or democratically elected government) begins to believe that they are all-knowing and infallible, people are right to oppose them.
  • by jmd (14060)

    and still is rife.

  • Makes sense when rising to the top is based on personal qualities and leadership abilities. However, today rising to the top is more or less decided by who your daddy is. A huge percentage of the ultra-rich are in that position by chance of birth.

    Inheriting is actually even more likely to get you into the top 1 percent by wealth: 45 percent of those in the top 1 percent by net worth only have ever inherited (Source: http://inequality.org/meet-ame... [inequality.org] ). Essentially about 50% of your likelihood of being
  • Hey, Everyone! Lets all vote ourselves in as serfs, except that guy over there, we'll elect him as Baron. He'll own everything and be responsible for everything so we don't have to. All in favor? Hands? Yes, I can just see how folks chose to be be kept down, working the fields, chattel of the local lord.
  • Hierarchy goes hand-in-hand with specialisation of roles in a society. Even in a hunter-gatherer society, the more physically endowed were hunters whilst the frailer members of the band gathered or engaged in child-care; even in pre-agricultural times, larger groups certainly had various factions even if they viewed other factions as peers. As agriculture took hold and a warrior caste developed, the more physically-armed members of society (or those were were under the protection of such) could keep the rab
  • "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others" - Winston Churchill

  • ...about how the West is not really special about democracy:

    http://www.straight.com/news/g... [straight.com]

    Writing about your original, even pre-homo-sapiens hunter-gatherer groups, who had democracy since we had language:

    They were all very little societies: rarely more than 50 adults (who had all known one another all their lives). On the rare occasions when they had to make a major decision, they would actually sit around and debate it until they reached a consensus. Direct democracy, if you like.

    People have been runni

  • False dichotomy (Score:4, Informative)

    by jandersen (462034) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @07:09AM (#47669477)

    Which would you prefer: egalitarianism or totalitarianism?

    The question makes little sense - for one thing, egalitarian is not the opposite of totalitarian - to quote Wikipedia:

    - "Egalitarianism ... is a trend of thought that favors equality for all people"

    - "Totalitarianism or totalitarian state is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible".

    Arguably, the opposite of egalitarianism is elitism; there isn't really a good word for it that I could find. The same holds for totalitarianism - no good antonym, but democratism might be close enough. These concept occupy two, independent spaces, although it may be that totalitarianism is found more with elitism than with egalitarianism.

    The other problem with this question is that they are not binary concepts, but define a continuum - IOW there are different degrees of both scales.

    When it comes down to it, the choice you make may not be as obvious as you think. New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren't counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife.

    There is nothing new in this. Even back in the day, when we can imagine that humans lives like the other, large apes in small groups, there would have been leaders - alpha-males or -females. Or in family groups, one or both parents would have been in charge. This makes sense, since a more experienced, older adult makes better decisions than a younger one, and a physically stronger individual is able to take what he/she wants as well as offering better protection against attackers etc.

    But what recent research of the Egyptian culture actually shows is, that hierarchical society developed, not because hierarchy is inherently better, but because the alternatives were worse. If Egypt hadn't been surrounded by desert, people would have moved away, and hierchical society wouldn't have been established that early. Compare to North Europe, where it is possible to live more or less everywhere, and hierchical societies seemingly didn't arise until much later, when population density got high enough.

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