Egalitarian vs Ranked Societies
Egalitarian is a person who believes that all human beings are equal and there is difference of status between people. This is a word that also describes a society that has no classes and where all people are equals. On paper, this seems improbable today, but for most of the time period that man has been on earth, he has lived and survived in egalitarian societies. It is only in the last few thousand years that man has started to live in ranked societies. This article attempts to take a close look at the differences between egalitarian and ranked societies.
Before the advent of civilization, mankind lived and survived in the form of hunter gather societies where people lived in small groups and no one was subordinate or superior to another. People lived in small groups where survival was dependent upon cooperation. Men folk hunted while women cooked and tended children. There was no society as such and no institution of family in sight yet. There was anarchy at best, and there was no head or chief. There were no priests or the ruling classes, leave alone, the head of a tribe. The system worked like this for thousands of years with everyone being equal in the society.
Such a society cannot even be imagined today, and it is utopia even to think of a classless society.
Some ten thousand years ago when mankind learnt about agriculture, things started to change. Man started to harvest crops and also started to raise cattle for domestication. These two new jobs alienated man from hunting and gathering and man started to live a sedentary life. Soon societies emerged and the concept of land evolved. Some people became more powerful and influential than others which led to a division of people based upon their classes. This was the start of ranked societies with men with more resources being treated differentially than men with fewer resources. Soon we had societies with a tribal chief or head who had a higher rank than the other members of the society. Rank earned men prestige and respect.
What is the difference between Egalitarian and Ranked Societies?
• Egalitarian society existed before the introduction of agriculture and domestication of animals.
• Men remained hunter gatherers for tens of thousands of years while living in egalitarian societies.
• In egalitarian societies, everyone was equal, and no one was superior or subordinate to each other.
• Ranked society was a result of some people being considered higher or more powerful than others such as the head or the chief of a tribe.
• Higher rank earned the respect and prestige for people in ranked societies.