When Does Equality Flourish?

woman holding cleaver

In some studies, people who are drunk, stressed, or distracted tend to defer to those with power, while more clearheaded individuals embrace equality more easily.

Source: When Does Equality Flourish? | The New Yorker

“At a basic level, the social structures of human and chimp societies are the same—they are pyramidal societies in which only one person (or a very small group of people) can occupy the top position.

All primate societies, Boehm notes, are governed by similar dynamics. If any one individual has the opportunity to climb the hierarchy, he or she is likely to seize it; unfortunately, as soon as power is gained, others resent it. In such a society, Boehm writes, there are three potential outcomes.
– One is conflict, in which newcomers continually and overtly challenge the powerful for a position at the top.
– Another is stable dominance, where the powerful relentlessly and permanently dominate the rest.
And
– a third is an equally stable social structure which Boehm calls “reverse dominance hierarchy,” in which those on the bottom of the pyramid figure out a way to band together and “deliberately dominate their potential master.”

In such a society, dominance is still exercised. It just comes, collectively and consistently, from below.”

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