rank, hierarchy, and power

Sat, 7 Jan 1995 14:06:00 PST

Lieber writes:

"I appreciate very much Dwight Read's thoughtful post on the meanings of
"mankind" and on gender-specific and gender non-specific kin terms. I have
one quibble--actually more than a quibble--with the way that Dright [sic],
along with most anthropologists, use the term hierarchy. "

Lieber goes on to discuss the important distinction between hierearchy which
involves entailed by whole-to-part relationships and mapped onto part-to-part
relationships. While my use of the word "hierarchy" is in agreement with
common usage of the term, Lieber quite rightly points out the need not to use
the same term for differernt kinds of relationships in academic discussions.
Indeed, central to my posting is the fact that what he refers to as
part-to-part relations do not, in and of themselves, entail structure
between the two parts. Thus person --> {female, male} logically entails

person person
^ ^
| |
female male,

but the relation:


is not logically entailed and this ranking requires another (emic) model (as
I discussed) to generate the ranking.

So we might say that "person" is in a hierarchical relationship to "female"
but not "male" in relationship to "female"; rather, the latter (if there is
a vertical relationship) involves a ranking relationship.

Lieber's example nicely shows that the two kinds of relationships can exist
simultaneously and (I take it) have quite different implications both for
legitimacy of power and what it takes to maintain power.

D. Read