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Two Paths to Inequality

• August 31, 2012 • 9:06 AM

Our multimedia presentation on the evolution of fairness continues with a discussion of two different theories accounting for the rise of inequality.

Previous: Artifacts

The initial excavation at House Pit Seven was finished by 1989. At that point Brian Hayden thought that a relatively benign process lay behind the simple class structure—that the wealthier and more powerful attained their rank because they provided valuable services that benefited the community at large.

For instance, they might have been adept at organizing the fishing and preservation process to create a bigger salmon pie for everyone in the community. Since everyone’s share is bigger, the community would not begrudge the benefactor a slightly larger slice.

Also, the high-status benefactors presumably would come to the aid of the community in times of need—to share their surplus as well as their managerial talents to get everyone through the hard times.

His quest to test this model of the development of inequality took Brian away from Keatley Creek, and back to ethnographic investigation. In this video, he relates the experience that became a turning point in his career, when he came to see the motivation of the wealthy and powerful in an entirely different way.

Next: How Inequality Began

Alan Honick with Gordon Orians
Alan Honick is a documentary filmmaker who has focused on issues of ecology and human sustainability for most of his career. Gordon Orians, a behavioral ecologist, is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington. His most intensive research area has been behavioral ecology, primarily with problems of habitat selection, mate selection, and mating systems. Recently he has focused on human emotional responses to environments.

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