Whoa, I haven’t once said that hierarchies have anything to do with bad people. In my initial comment, I made the distinction between hierarchies of domination which are about power over and hierarchies of actualization which are about power to and power with (which are a part of partnership-based organizational styles). Hierarchies of actualization still have different ranks and levels of authority, but use and maintain power in different ways.

We live in a domination based hierarchy but that doesn’t mean that all of the people in our society are bad people. They are living out the precepts of the social system that they are a part of, which includes constantly evaluating themselves against everyone around them to see if they rank higher or lower because it’s a pecking order based system. Modern H-G tribes and ancient humans prior to 12K years ago did not live in a system like that.

In my initial comment, I also mentioned that a lot of what looks like racism and sexism is probably just trying to maintain the properties of the dominance hierarchy pyramid as it was 50 years ago, because flattening it out feels like a disruption to the social order more generally. It’s more about people belonging in a certain place on the pyramid than about actual hatred.

I don’t really consider value placement to be a hierarchy in the true sense of the word. Honoring the clan mother as the oldest woman in the tribe doesn’t mean she has more authority or even necessarily more status.

hi·er·ar·chy

/ˈhī(ə)ˌrärkē/

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noun

  1. a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. (emphasis mine)

If you live in a tribe that requires a good hunter to be self-deprecating about his kill, you may recognize that he more reliably brings in meat than someone else, but you’re also actively making sure that he is not ranked above anyone else because of it, not even in his own mind. Because some hunters are better than others does not in and of itself create a hierarchy. Giving better hunters greater status would, but that’s not what happens in H-G tribes because they have a social system that actively works against that in order to maintain egalitarianism.

e·gal·i·tar·i·an

/iˌɡaləˈterēən/

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adjective

  1. relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

Hierarchy requires centralized power. Simply admiring or valuing someone is not sufficient to create a hierarchy. The kind of egalitarianism that both ancient and modern H-G tribes practice has been compared to proto-communism, where (at least in theory) everyone has an equal say in the forming and functioning of the society. There is a notable absence of centralized power.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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