Is total war the only solution to income inequality?

Income gaps have fueled a move away from mainstream politics...

Professor of history at Stanford, Walter Scheidel has argued that economic inequality is so entrenched in modern society that war on a scale never seen before could be the only way to 'reset the scale.'

"Only all-out thermonuclear war might fundamentally reset the existing distribution of resources," the academic writes in his forthcoming book, The Great Leveler.

He adds that, "peaceful policy reform may well prove unequal to the growing (social) challenges ahead."

His thesis is that history has thought us that, once a society produces surpluses inequality follows - and the only occasions when social order can be reestablished is in the wake of mass conflict.

The New York Times comments that this counters classic theories which say that inequality is a transitory phase as an economy develops.

It also says, "Mr. Scheidel’s depressing view is bound to upset liberal politicians and social scientists, who quite naturally might prefer to live in a world in which events might move political and social systems to figure out a more equitable way to distribute the fruits of growth without the plague, the guillotine or state collapse."

Increased and entrenched income inequality has been highlighted as one of the sources of a movement away from mainstream politics and an increase in support for populist policies as voters feel that their lot is not improving.