In a recent prior post, I attempted to engage some thoughtful members of the the modern, mostly left leaning, community and their notions of race, gender and equality. This attempt, for the most part … struck out. For I had thought some of my recent reading might provide some interesting grounds for discussion. But, I’m going to try again and in an attempt to lure in more readers, by turning the post on its head a bit.
A crucial postulate of race/gender theory is that hierarchy is bad. Hierarchy, which is by definition the coercive imposition of authority on others group. Normally the oppressor is the usual whipping boy, coined in my last essay in a phrase I particularly liked, the “pale male”. Being male, and “pale” myself then I’m one of those targeted as the “greater source of man’s evil” of our age, which is somewhat unsettling (annoying?). But, alas, I think the underlying hypothesis behind this notion is in error. That is the notion that hierarchy is “bad” or should be avoided. For instead hierarchy is instead a fundamental part of man’s makeup and not necessarily at odds with equality. Moreover, authority and coercion are opposed not conjoined concepts.
Hierarchy is found in every human grouping or society. Hierarchy is a natural outcrop of the different abilities which humans are gifted. Every single personal quality which one can consider, decisiveness, empathy, charisma, charm, various aptitudes (maths, logic, physical strength, agility) are given and developed in each of us to different measures. In any given pursuit, different people have also personally developed different levels of familiarity and expertise. This leads to natural hierarchy. If you begin a new pursuit, you will defer to an instructor. This instructor does not have authority because of coercion, but because you grant it to him. When men form community, natural leaders emerge. These men (or women) are given authority by those around them. Coercion has not (as yet) entered the picture.
Coercion is the corruption of authority. If a person, now more typically in a political sphere but domestic spheres may apply as well, lacks authority, that is the authority of his/her requests are not recognized then there are two options, his authority is broken or a subset of his followers who remain under his authority apply threat/coercion to exert and replace this lost authority. For if authority was granted then it would be obeyed in the absence of coercion or the threat of same.
Therefore we have the following propositions.
- Hierarchy arises because of difference. Different talents in individuals yields to the natural impulse to grant those with greater talents greater authority in differing spheres.
- Hierarchy is natural. Difference is undeniable. No human social or political groups have ever emerged without having hierarchy also emerge. Hierarchy arises when people acknowledge the expertise and authority of one or more within their number. These experts can vary by sphere and need not be the same person for all things.
- Hierarchy does not deny equality. A teacher or instructor having authority in the classroom does not imply that the person regarded as a person is not equal to his students.
- Lost of equality comes with coercion.
- The source of this hierarchy is not coercion but difference.
- Coercion and authority are opposites. Coercion is a sign of the breakdown of authority not a feature of authority.
So therefore, if authority is not linked to coercion and hierarchy is a natural part of man’s makeup it seems to me the gender/race theorist has some re-working to do for it will not do to a priori reject hierarchy nor authority out of hand as being wrong. See the above linked essay for some notions of how Christian Trinitiarian theology might impact the consideration of hierarchy and authority and its solution from an ontological perspective.