This article deals with the dynamics of social inequality and social stratification from a historical-sociological perspective. It purports to clarify basic problems in this field with the help of insights developed by sociologists Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu. I systematically compare both thinkers’ ideas on the dynamics of inequality, pointing out similarities and divergences, and critically discuss them. After a summary of basic notions in their work, the paper deals subsequently with the reproduction of inequality in connection with habitus formation; changes in inequality structures over time - more specifically, trends of de-creasing inequality (functional democratisation) and increasing inequality (functional de-democratisation); and the causal connections between changes in inequality structures and changes in habitus, mentality, and ideology. The final section of the paper focuses on a current issue: the emergence of populism in contemporary Western societies. On the basis of the preceding argument, I advance a tentative explanation of the rise of nationalist populism in the context of tendencies of increasing socioeconomic inequality.