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Deep Roots of Political and Economic Development

June 26 June 28 UTC+2

During the Holocene (roughly, the last 10,000 years) human social life has been transformed from small-scale relatively egalitarian groups to large-scale complex societies characterized by sophisticated governance institutions, elaborate information systems, extensive division of labor, and deep social and economic inequalities.

At the same time, there was a huge degree of variation in political and economic development between continents and regions, both in the past and persisting today. Thinkers of the past and modern social scientists have proposed a multitude of theories to account for this profound transformation, as well as for why there is so much variation around the overall trend.

New explanations continue to be proposed, and the theoretical corpus grows, but rejecting deficient explanations in favor of more logically cohesive and empirically adequate theories has not been keeping pace. This situation is made worse by disciplinary boundaries. In particular, the relatively new fields of Cultural Macroevolution and of the “Deep Roots” within Economics have developed largely in isolation of each other, with their separate corpora of modeling and empirical literature.

The main goal of this conference is to bring active practitioners from both fields to enable cross-disciplinary conversation and, ultimately, collaboration. Recent advances in the construction of new databases, which together constitute a massive, and growing, corpus of data for empirically testing theoretical predictions, make such trans-disciplinary dialogue timely and necessary.

List of Speakers & Tentative Topics

  • Oded Galor (Brown University) : The Power of a Diverse Mindset in Shaping Prosperity
  • Peter J. Richerson: What processes regulated the tempo of Holocene human evolution?
  • Peter Turchin (CSH): Cultural Macroevolution: Understanding the rise of large-scale complex societies in human history
  • Kathryn Bard (Boston University) : Aksum, an early state in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Tim Kohler (Washington State University): The Surprising Prehistory of Wealth Inequality, and its causes, as seen from the record of housing disparities
  • Mark Koyama (George Mason University): Elites and Institutional Change: England 1215-1688
  • Helena Miton (Santa Fe Institute): Trade and the Evolution of Complex Societies
  • Ömer Özak (Southern Methodist University): Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World’s Most Enduring Mega-State
  • Clair Z. Yang (University of Washington): A longevity mechanism of Chinese absolutism
  • David Schönholzer (IIES): Migratory Bottlenecks and the Evolution of Social Complexity
  • Charles Efferson (Université de Lausanne): the cultural evolution of norms, the welfare consequences of norm change
  • Laura Mayoral (Barcelona School of Economics): the evolution of early empires
  • Zhiwu Chen (HongKong University): Origins of political elites: How war shaped China’s spatial distribution of power since 206 BCE
  • Teresa Almendros & Daniel Kondor (CSH): State collapse and institutional evolution in Bronze Age Mesopotamia
  • Andrey Korotayev and Vadim Ustyuzhanin (HSE University): Deep roots of current socio-economic patterns in the MENA region
  • Laura Spinney: Science reporter (not giving a talk)

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