Scarcity and Inequality: Prologue to the onset of mass revolution

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This study examines the relationship between scarcity and inequality, especially in the comparison between the behavior of agrarian and industrial societies. Specifically, we ask why it is that major revolutions almost always occur in predominantly agrarian societies but almost never in industrial ones. Whereas industrialized countries experience increased equality with increased a bundance, and follow a hypothesized curvilinear function, this is not true for agrarian societies as evidenced in three data sets. Redistributive and authenticating revolutions follow from the scarcity condition. Exponential distributions of landholdings and increased inequality are found to apply in agrarian, prerevolutionary situations. Land inequality is a potent predictor of mass revolution. Population growth is found to be a major source of inequality, and the emergence of inequality even in advanced industrial societies suggests certain similarities with the early stages of the agrarian sector. Thus, the future stability of the more industrialized countries may be threatened.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-38
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1982
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


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