Re: rank, hierarchy, and power

Mon, 9 Jan 1995 14:01:00 PST

Whitehead writes:

" In other words I am suggesting that wherever you find rank differences,
you're going to find a set/subset relationship process at some level of the
situation ... on the whole *in real social process* there is a mutual
implicature between ranking and set/subset relationships."

One side of the implication is reasonable: if role X entails control over
(or whatever) of set of persons A, and role Y entails control over set of
persons B, then if B is contained in A and X and Y are ranked, then X will
have a higher rank than Y. What is less clear is the claim that role X and
role Y are only ranked when such sets of persons A and B exist. If I am
reading Whitehead correctly, she is claiming that ranking as it exists in
practise always derives from set/subset relationships that are entailed by
the respective roles. This seems implausible on the face of it and presumes
that only the inclusion ordering is culturally used for defining rankings,
whereas any other basis for ordering of positions is NOT culturally used for
defining rankings.

In reply to my suggestion that sometimes ranking is based on criteria such as
elder/younger, she replies:

"Outside of a particular family or seniority-on-the job context, elders do
not systematically outrank *adult* young people."

Whether or not elders <systematically> outrank *adult* young people is beside
the point, as the example was not set forth as a universal basis for ranking,
but a basis that is used in some occasions; e.g., systems of primogeniture in
which the eldest brother outranks all other brothers, or systems where a
purportedly elder lineage outranks a younger lineage, etc.

D. Read