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Genoral Editor F. G. Bailey


A Social Anthropology of Politics
I': O. Bailey
among Mer]
01 ·TS AND POISON. 301.411 BET
1ho Politics of Reputation
Hdl/fld by F. G. Bailey ·1~IIJ~I~~lllmnl'III"llJIr--·-···
'I'" Politics of Innovation
J dlll'{l by F. O. Bailey D

N fWIH'k , Manipulators, and Coalitions Andre Beteille
I,., fII" llolssevatn .


1'1111 ly of Millenarian Activities
"r"rI", Burridge
A Study of Belief and Practice in an Indian ViJJage
"II II no Israel of Bombay t
S, "(fro Sir/zower


NflHly of Violent Peasant Entrepreneurs
i"/II11 ntok
I\fuhlll:ration and Political Control on the Zambian Copperbelt
,. trr /lorries-Jones


YlIlholi Anthropology in Evolutionary Perspective OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
J,IIII' .r / •• Peacock
Bombay Calcutta Madras


© Basil Blackwell 1977

Edition for South Asia published by Oxford University Press, Delhi.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may 1 The Two Sources of Inequality 1
be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or .
transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, 2 Evaluation and Hierarchies of Status 24
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise 48
without the prior permission of the publishers. 3 Organisation and Structures of Power I

-4 Wealth, Property and Social Class 73 .\

5 Race and Social-Stratification 101
I .•·..

6 Continuity and Change
7 The Egalitarian Society 153

", Index 173

Printed and bound in Great Britain

of the distinctions people make between what is social and what is
While the treatment of the problem is comparative, no attempt 1
has been made to catalogue every form of inequality in every society.
The empirical material has been selected in relation to particular The Two Sources
argument. Some societies have been discussed in more than one
. chapter, and others not at all. If the argument is valid, then it can be of Inequality
applied to any society, whether or not it has been discussed here .
. I hope I have covered a sufficiently wide range of cases to persuade
the reader that the argument can indeed be applied to others. The spirit of the age is in favour of equality, though
The ideas presented in this study have grown over the years practice denies it almost everywhere ...
through discussions with many persons, mainly students.' I find it Nehru The Discovery of India
difflcult'to single out any name from among these for special mention.
Mr R. L. Kalra typed the manuscript and Miss Malini Chand
prepared the Index; I am grateful to them for their help. The great' paradox of the modern world is that everywhere men
attach themselves to the principle of equality and everywhere, in
Andre Beteille Delhi School of Economics their own lives as well as in the lives of others, they encounter the
14 June 1976 presence of inequality. The more strongly they attach themselves to
the principle or the ideology of equality the more oppressive the
reality becomes. Their attachment even makes it difficult for them
to consider dispassionately and objectively whether tile inequalities
which surround them are increasing or decreasing. Every statement
that inequalities are decreasing in some spheres of social life seems
to call forward a counter-statement that they are increasing in others.
To turn a moral question into a sociological one is the ambition
of every student of society, but it is not an ambition which many can
reasonably hope to fulfil.
t The two principal political ideologies of the present a de
rae and socia Ism--elt er sing or 10 various c . .
uilt on the premise of equa ItY.for all human bein s.Whese great
@eologie and theIr corresponding msb!ubonal structures were born
and took shape in r~cent times in the Western world. Soon after
their emergence in the West they spread to other parts of the world
so that today they have come to acquire a universal character.Cfhe
ideologies of equality ar,e simple in their' essential features, but the
realities they confront differ greatly from one society to another and,
within the same society, from one sphere of life to another. ':
In an age where the ideal of equality has so much fascination, any
attempt to interpret inequality runs the risk of being condemned as •
being by implication a justification of iP.'The risk is all the greater
The Two Sources of Inequality l 3
2 The Two Sources of Inequality
societies no gap, or only a small gap, in th~ definition of what ought
to be.) . '
(Th~ countries of the Third World are not only 'backward' economi-
callY, but many of them are also 'traditional' in theircultun:-.
Contempor~ry India provides a good example of this kind of society.
It IniOt as if new ideas and values have made no impact on It. II
anything, the ideology of equality is proclaimed more loudly and
stridently there than in countries where it has been institutionalised
for a century or more. But lurking behind these proclamations are
old values and old habits of mind which see the pre-existing inequali-
ties among men as a part of the natural scheme of things. Hence in
these countries a sociological discussion of inequality tends to cut
too close to the bone and may easily be represented as a defence of
traditional values and institutions..' ,.


4 The Two Sources of Inequality

their own social hierarchy, its origin and source. But it is only when
we compare in a s stematic wa the inequalities in. our own societ
with t ose resent in others that a sociological appraoch to the prob-
I lem is initiated. It hardly needs to e sal tat e POSSI I tties 0
sJ;tematic comparison between widely different societies were
strictly limited until a little Over a hundred years ago.
@ystematic studies of inequality based ~n the careful ~bs~rvation
and recording of facts began to be made In Western SocIetIes from
the beginning of the nineteenth century;) These studies were at first
set almost entirelv in a historical context, their objective being to
determine whethe~ inequalities were increasing or decreasing. Des-
criptions of facts were frequently mixed up with judgements of
value because the facts were not always easily available and because
most writers felt free and even obliged to express their judgement
on important moral questions,
\ During the last fifty years a vast body of empirical material h_~~_
been collected systematically covering almost every important aspect

of inequality in Western societies) Some of these studies, par~icularly

some of those conducted in the United States, are very detailed and
technical. A number of studies have been published in which com-
parisons of patterns of stratification and rates of mobility ,are,attemp-
ted between the different industrial systems of the capltahst type,
More recently some scholars have turned their atte_ntion to the
systematic comparison of inequalities in the two types of indust~ial
society, the capitalist systems of Western Europe and North Amenca,
and the socialist systems of Eastern Europe,
But if SOciology is to be a truly comearative su biect. then com~ari.
sons must extend beyond the industrial societies QfE!J;ope and iirtb
America;.' ~c!£..logy as a science deyelop~d in t~e West out, of a stu,dy
Of\Vestern societ and even com aratlve soclOlo has In rachc

I confined itself largely to the comparison of Western or industrial

~Ietles, )'nle study 01 non- Western s,ocie~ies has been le,ft, largely

II to anthropologists, ethnologists and historians, and the diVISIOn of

labour between students of Western and non-Western societies has
in practice tended to be-rigid, despite the'acceptance in principle of
a comparative approach to the study of society,
I As I have already indicated, file clearest and the most visible

forms of inequality are to be found today not In t e Industria,
SOCietIes 0 t e est u In some 0 t e pre ominantly a2 dan
". ra
•.societies of the Third World; These societies reveal some of the
- ;
The Two sources oJ Jfle'JuuII'Y
6 The Two Sources of Inequality :1\

Human beings as we know them live everywhere in association with

other human beings to whom they are related by a variety of rights
and obligations. Some students of human society were struck by the
fact that there are parallels elsewhere in the animal kingdom, where
some species of insects, for example, have their own forms of associ.
ation and their own division of labour. Thus, Radcliffe-Brown drew
attention to what he called the 'social phenomena' that are to be
found among bees in a hive in 'the relations of association of the
queen, the workers and the drones'." However, this analogy does
not carry us very far for there are fundamental differences in the
social phenomena observed among human beings and among other
members of the animal kingdom.
The most obvious difference between animal and human societie
is that in the ormer t e patterns ,of behaviour which ex ress an
sustam t e re ations of association are transmitted throu h a enetic
a c?de, whereas in the latte ey are transmitted, in addition, through --
ft i,Of,J
8 '11/1 '/\1'11 StlIII, '"' /" II"I/llt I' 711(' 7)110 SOIlf('CS of Inequallty 9
P rhnp 100 I, III II 1111(1111('111, II"d I mny be best to say that
Imllnr P'III Ipl 01 1111 II ~nt1on IIlId evnluatlon nrc applied to the
social and Ihe 1111111'111 orders.
It is true Ihnt modern man lives less close to nature than primitive
man, and this is why his categorisation of birds, animals, trees and
plants is less elaborate and more fragmentary. In industrial societies
other things such as buildings, monuments, gardens and parks
surround man and constitute his immediate physical environment.
In every such society these objects, which are in a more direct way
the products of his creation, art in their turn categorised and graded.
The French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss has tried to
exa~ine the relation_ship between nature and cult~re through a
detailed and systematic study of customs relating to food." Many are
aware oft~e eI~~~rat~ and strictly defined modes of food preparation
developed In civilisations such as the European, the Chinese and the
India? L~vi-Strauss has reve~led the surprising fact that food pre- But given the process of evaluation, the probability is that it will
paration IS an elaborate affair even among the most primitive of serve to differentiate entities in a rank order of some kind. Exactly
tribal communities, -Not everything that is edible is in any society equal evaluation of two or more entities may of course occur, ?ut
regarded as food. Different food substances have to be differently it is a special case of evaluative judgement, not a demonstration
prepared, and the preparations have to be served in a certain order of its irrelevance. 6
which is governed by occasion, place and time.
The most important consideration from' our point of view is that
food is in every society made the object of more or less systematic
e~aluation. ~n ?o society are all kinds of food accorded equal value; . their qualities and their er ormances.
different varieties of food are associated with different levels of social n mo ern In ustrial societies performance or achievement is
pr?stige. Some varieties of food are regarded as particularly appro- Wenerally given pride of place. This is the case whether or not t~e
priate for feasts, banquets and parties; others are regarded as plain economic system is organised on the basis of the private ownership
or homely fare. Clearly there is some association between the social of the means of production, although it is true that it is in capitalist
prestige of food and its scarcity or cost, but the work of Levi-Strauss societies that we see the full play of the spirit of individual achieve-
hnR provided ample evidence to show that this cannot be the sole ment through competition. But as Michael Young pointed out some
planation of the hierarchy of foodstuffs. years ago, a meritocratic society is by no means the prototype of an
Next to food, dress and adornment are objects which engage the e alitarian society.' Indeed some may doubt if a society based on a
1111 IIlI n of individuals in every society. These also are items of meritocracy is in all ways more desirable than other types of societies
11111111' in the sense that there are collective standards which govern of which history provides examples.
Ih II cholce and use, although perhaps here new fashions alter the What Parsons describes as 'quality' in contrast to performance is,
I"'\lhu'd, more easily than in the matter of food, The association as he shows convincingly, not wholly irrelevant even in the most
II IWIl n social prestige and modes of dress and adornment is too highly competitive and achievement-oriented societies. Birth, family
'I II k n wn to require detailed discussion. One of the interesting status and ethnic identity are taken into account in the ranking of
I 11111" f modern living seems to be that those who set out to individuals even in modern American society. In other, e.g. pre-
I puclillto nil fashions in dress end at best by setting up a new fashion, industrial, societies-which are more static and. have a greater
10 The Two Sources 0/ Inequality The Two Sources of lnequality 11
historical depth-a large number of such qualities are recognised I have argued so far that human beings everywhere discrimlnate
and serve as criteria for differentiating and ranking individuals. among things and among persons, and that some kind of evaluation
Gradation in terms of quality has been a conspicuous feature of I is applied to both. Systems of evaluation differ greatly from each
the pre-in?us~rial civilisations of India, China and Europe, No doubt to other in their complexity and coherence, although there is always
some carried It further than others, but they all differed ~ this matter the danger that other systems of classification and evaluatic
from modern industrial civilisation. The qualities of men are viewed appear simple and naive in our eyes. It ,is only by applying to
as being inherent in their nature and they are believed to be general1y comparative approach that we recognise tHe specificity of our 0\'.;,
though not invariably acquired by birth. Every; civilisation has of system of evaluation and the universality of evaluation as a SOC!;!
course its own theories of human nature, and even our modern phenomenon.
scientific civilisation has not succeeded in discarding altogether the It is perhaps fruitless to ask whether we first categorise things
view that human nature is to some extent unalterable. and then apply the scheme to society or whether our experience of
If we now return to Rousseau we will be able t tand a society provides us with certain categories in terms of which we
little better w y t e dIstInctIOn propose y him between 'n classify everything else. The evaluation of things -and of persons is
'nequa Ity an mora mequa Ity IS so I CU t to a ly in ractice. something we can observe directly in all societies. What is important
Natura mequa I Y IS. ase on' I erences in quality, and qualities for our argument is that discrimination and evaluation are inherent
are not just there, so to say, in nature; they are as human beings have features of culture and. perhaps of the human mind itself, and these
defined them, in different societies, in different historical epochs. processes are applied in similar ways to the world of things and the
What modern anthropology teaches us is that human beings create world of persons.
~ot o~ly their ow.n'morality' but in a way also their own 'nature' by
mvesting everything around them with meaning and value. 1 (lhave_!l.rgued in the preceding section that each society has a culture
~he most obvious example in the modern world of the way in ] 'or a set of collective representations of which evaluation is an inherent
which natural or physical differences are invested with moral or ~ '.. feature, and that this provides' a universal source of inequaiit . I
cultural significance is to be found in ourattitudes to race. What is l : shall now argue that every society, as a se 0 in eracttng individuals,
race, and how should we view differences of race? Are differences
8 of race wholly an aspect of n§ture or are they also an aspect of Ji> ?><
~~: oJ
power an~ domi~ation, and that this constitutes a sec<_)nduniversa!._ I
ource of meguahty, ---'
. culture? As physical anthropologists discovered soon after they
t1 began to make systematic stwas of race, it is extremely difficult, .J- ~. •• he role of force, power and domination in the relations among
some would say even impossible, to break up the human species into ~ e>-' en has of course been a subject of continual discussion among
a number of natural kinds. <;: , political philosophers since the days of Machiavelli, Bodin and
All kinds of differences in physical features are of course present. ... YHobbes. But there are several differences between the philosophical
But if we take differences in skin colour, for example, we get a totally
different distribution of the human population from the distribution here. For one thing, philosophers like Hobbes argued about man
we get when dividing it according to blood groups. The geneticists • and the commonwealth from first principles on the basis of certain
say that blood-groups which correspond to genotype are more assumptions about human nature: the sociologist, on the other hand,
significant than skin colour which corresponds to phenotype. But takes for granted the variability of human nature and bases his argu-
th~n what should we do about skin colour? Should we regard it as ments on systematic comparisons among societies of different kinds.
bemg totally extraneous to human nature? Whichever way the Secondly, politicalphilosophers, while talking about the distribution
geneticist disposes of the problem, it wiJI continue to be there for of power, have almost always had the powers of the state in mind;
students of society and culture so long as physical appearance as a the sociologist considers in addition the distribution of power in
quality is subjected to evaluation. associations other than the state as well as in stateless societies.
12 The Two Sources of Inequality The two Sources of Inequality 13
(Hobbes believed, not unlike Rousseau, that natural inequalities Malinowski brought out the complex pattern of rights and obli-
among men, whether ·of the body or of the mind, are small and gations which bind individuals to each other in tribal societies, and
inconsiderable, and the systematic subordination of some men to in the process showed that social life there is not self-regulating in
others isa consequence or, better, an aspect of living in society) For quite the same mechanical way in which it is in the societies of ants
it is in their civil as opposed to their natural condition that men are and bees.PIn understanding social life among human beings even in
organised in terms' of justice, law and power. In talking about power its simplest forms we have to take into account their codes of con-
or the 'common Power' here, Hobbes had of course the state in duct, the frequent departures from these codes in practice, and t~e
mind," but we shall see that it is possible to talk meaningfully about mechanisms for dealing with these departures. All men, whether m
powerin a variety of other social contexts as well. primitive or in advanced societies, have rights arid obligations, but
If oAe views the state as the sole source and locus of power, one they are not by that reason all equal; some have superior rights in
can adopt either of two attitudes to the problem of power in social defining the obligations of others.
life. Orie may argue that the state is essential to civilised living; to
both order and progress, and .that it should therefore be maintained
Put in very simple terms, my argument is that it is in the nature
of a system of social relations that the rights and obligations of
if not strengthened. Alternatively, one may argue that the state is people towards each other should be defined to some extent, and
a historically specific institution, that it arises in particular times at that it is in the nature of a system of action that this definition
particular places, that it can be negated, .and that with its negation should remain to some extent ambiguous. It is thus that power and
inequalities of power will cease to exist.(rhe sociological argument domination lodge themselves as significant features of social life
on the other hand is that superordination and subordination based everywhere. In a society where rights and obligations are defined
on inequalities of power ,are inherent in all organisations of which and perceived unambiguously, and accepted unequivocally, power
the state is one but not tile only example) as we know i~ay cease to be significant but one may doubt if such
Here also, as in the case of culture, the really decisive evidence a society wotffd continue to be a human society.
comes from the anthropological study. of tribal communities. The My argument may be best illustrated by examining the organisa-
study of the simpler societies by the methods of intensive fieldwork tion of social activities within a given territorial framework. It is a
is barely fifty years old, and the systematic study of their political truism that human beings everywhere have to live in a territory.
life is of even more recent origin. Yet. these studies have led us to Living together in a particular village or district and having to inter-
revise some of our basic ideas regarding the organisation of human act with each other continually over a period of time require some
.- activities through which social life maintains its n~ture, form and limitation and adjustment of interests among people. While thi~~
identity. requirement is present in all associations, we see its force most .
In the past people commonly held either of two diametrically clearly in the territorial group which is, moreover, a universal form
opposed views about the nature of life in what were called savage of association.
societies. One view was that there was no -law in the proper sense 'Every local community, however small or simple, has its own
among savages: what prevailed was the law of the jungle where division of labour. Men and women, old and young, have to perform
might was right and the weak were entirely at the mercy of the strong. various tasks for themselves and for each other if the community is
The other. view was that in savage societies custom was king, that to maintain itself. Under such conditions, when an individual
the savage was such a slave to superstition that his life was auto- violates his obligations .to another individual, this becomes to some
matically regulated by a blind adherence to custom, leaving no room extent a matter of concern for the group as a whole. But the violation
for force, power and domination in this regulation. The results of of an obligation and the remedy for the violation are neither of them
Malinowski's fieldwork in ,the Trobriand Islands revealed for the simple matters. It has to be determined whether an obligation existed,
first Iime the complex nature of the sanctions by which social life is to what extent it has been violated, who was ultimately responsible
regulated among primitive peoples. for the violation, what reparation should be made, to whom, by
14 The Two Sources of inequality The 1\vo Sources of lnequality l~
whom, and in what manner. I would like to repeat that this is not between village headmen, titular chiefs and paramount, chiefs arc
just deductive reasoning: anthropological fieldwork all over the differences of degree and not of kind. ,
world has shown that these are questions which occur repeatedly in It is perhaps necessary at this point to say a few words about the
all communities, everywhere. ..' distinction, made famous by British anthropologists, between seg..
Issues in dispute or doubt have to be settled and decisions must be mentary and centralised political systems. It has been argued th,
taken which will be binding on all the members of the community. there are some political systems, called segmentary or acephalou. ,
Now it is of course possible in theory for the entire collectivity to where there are no kings, chiefs or headmen, and no concentration
arrive through consensus at decisions which will be considered by or inequality of power, but where order is maintained through :l
each to be binding on all. But this is not how things work in practice balancedopposition of segments which are equal and opposed-at
in the case of even small and compact groups with a simple division every level. Some comments are required on this; If we take the
of labour, and such a practice would clearly be impossible in the classic case of the Nuer tribes described by Evans-Pritchard, we
, case of large and dispersed groilps with a complex division of labour. find firstly that no clear description is, presented of how order is_
In both cases there are persons who by 'virtue of their character and maintained within the village or camp, which are in many ways the
CI position playa more decisiv~rt than others in taking collective most significant local groups. Secondly, at every territorial level we
decisions. It is in this sense that we speak of these positions as ones have one lineage which is described as the dominant lineage; if the
of power and authority, since it is by virtue of them that some can concept of dominance is to have any meaning, it must relate to
take decisions which are considered to be binding by all. inequalities of power. Taking all things together, it would appear
I have avoided giving formal definitions of power and authority, that the most satisfactory statement of the position is that of Professor
but the discussion above will make it clear what kinds of considera- Gluckman, who says: "
tion should enter into their definition; I would like only to add here
that some element of physical compulsion, potential or actual, Tosomeextent, the answer to this problem may be that the govern-
everywhere lies behind decisions that are regarded as authoritative. mental organisationwhich we find in states at these levels of
Now, societies differ greatly in the extent to which positions of power economic development has an inherent instability which contin-
and authority are elaborated and related to each other. But such ually leads to its breakdown, so that the difference between tribes
positions are present in all societies even when they are not clearly organised under chiefs, and those which lack chiefs is not as great
separated from other positions defined in terms of other attributes as it appears to be.ll'
and functions.
In a detailed and meticulous survey of politics and government in Where the organization of a number of local groups ina larger
tribal Africa, .Professor Schapera showed that the simplest and the system is weak, the apparatus through which this organization is
most complex tribal societies share certain basic features in com- maintained and in which inequalities of power are rooted, is likely
men.'? All have territorial groups which may be small or large, to be weak or non-existent.
loosely or tightly co-ordinated. In the case of the most primitive ).,.. Students of human society make a distinction between the sphere
tribes, the local group is small and the co-ordination between local of kinship and the sphere 'of politics, and this distinction is particu-
groups is limited; there is nevertheless some apparatus, often merely 'larly clear in the case of industrial societies. In tribal and also
an aspect of the kinship system, through which activities are organ- agrarian societies the sphere of kinship is quite large, and some
ised, order maintained and conflict resolved. Where the local group anthropologists have sought to distinguish within it the domestiG
is only an extended kin-group, those in authority are generally domain from the politico-jural domain. Even if we argue that then:
persons occupying senior positions in the kin-group. In other cases, is no separate. political domain among some of the simplest tribes we
and at higher levels of territorial organisation there are chiefs of must recognise that there are inequalities of power in the kinship
various kinds. The point to bear in mind is that the differences group through which social life in the community is organised.
16 111(' nllO ,\'mlf'I'iW oj '"rquallty

This poInt needs to be mude, for to the contemporary Western mind The Two Sources of Inequality 17
the sphere of kinship Is the sphere of equality; this is by no means words, the very things which give order and coherence to society
the case universally. are also responsible for maintaining inequality among its members.
I have. considered so far the problems of organisation only in Sociology began as a discipline by asking what holds a society
territorial groups. But these problems exist in all forms of association: together, what gives it coherence and design, what makes it some-
territorial groups such as the village or the state provide only a thing more than a mere aggregate of individuals. Today we no longer
kind of model through which we can understand and explain them. put the question in the form in which it was put by moral philosophers
The problems of organisation, and of the inequalities of power in the eighteenth century and earlier who wanted to discover how
inherent in them have been studied in diverse forms of association and under what conditions individual human beings living in a state
ranging from religious sects (often based on egalitarian values) to of nature came together and created a society. Perhaps we realise f)

social clubs (designed generally for companionship among equals). today that this question cannot be probfrly answered by the methods
(When w,e move from simple, smal1~scale tribal communities to available to us. Moreover human beings always and everywhere live
complex, l~rge-scale industrial societies, positions of power and in society. The problem thereforeis tofftJ.d out not how society origi-
authority multiply, and become more clearly defined and more nated but how it is maintained.
elaboratelyistructure~ Organisation is a pervasive feature of indust- Among the first sociologists to raise this question and to attempt
rial societids, whether we take democratic or totalitarian regimes. a rigorous answer to it were Emile Durkheim and his associates in
In these societies organisation is aided by technical devices of a kind France at the turn of the century. Durkheim drew on an earlier tradi-
which Wasnot dreamt of even in the most despotiC of tribal societies. tion of French social thought, notably that of Montesquieu and also
, Given the elaborate nature of the apparatus of power and authority of Rousseau, but gave his own distinctive answer to the question.
I in industrial societies, it is difficult to see how control over it could Collective representations, shared ideas and values, or culture are,
I . be made equally accessible to all. according to Durkheim, the fundamental factors that give unity,
It is far from my intention to argue that wherever there is a con- coherence and design to social life. Durkheim has been reproached
centration of power there must also be art abuse of power. That is a by his critics for ignoring the place of force, power and domination
separat~ question which has led some to the conclusion, which.I in society. It is true also that he did hot show systematically how
find to be of doubtful value, that the solution to our modern prob- common values are linked to social inequality, although this has
lems lies in a return to a life based on simple, small-scale communities. been done by his most important modern interpreter, Talcott Parsons.
All I have- said, even the simplest communities are not free from Other sociologists, notably Pareto, Mosca and Michels who were
Inequalities of power, and if these generally appear .small or neg- all contemporaries of Durkheim, have emphasised the part played
" Ible, this may partly be .because we assess them according-ro by force, power and domination in holding society together. Their
IItnndards wh!ch are not always appropriate to them. work also can be related to an earlier tradition, going back in this
case to the fifteenth-century Italian political philosopher, Niccolo
V hnvo tried to interpret the prevalence of inequality among men in Machiavelli -. The work of Michels in particular presents a lucid
f 1'111.of two principal phenomena, evaluation and organisation. analysis of the relationship between organisation and the inequality
Tlit-lio In their turn are rooted in culture on the one hand and power of power, a rel~ionship which has been summed up in the 'Iron law
till tho other, without either of which human society as we know it
of oligarchy'.»
I III onccivabl~ Different scholars have given different degrees of We do not have a sociological theory which synthesises in a satis-
1I1phnRis to these factors, some attaching more importance to com- factory way the two approaches presented above. Most attempts at
1111111 vnlucs and others to power. (.J}utthe interesting point is that synthesis miss what in my view is the essential point that it may not
f II nr nIso the factors which, in the opinion of rost, hold a be possible to reduce the problem of either order or inequality to
lid ty together and ensure its continuity as a living wnole.'Jn other one single, unifying principle. So far at least, attempts to reduce the
. j
problem of power to that of 'legitimate' power and to explain it in
Til • 1. WO (JUn.:"" "J •••.•.... I
•• with wealth. Wealth is esteemed as a thing in itself and it also enau'lc
18 The Two Sources of Inequality V
a person! to have .co~mand over other But this is by no means
If terms of culture have proved ttft,e no more fruitful than attempts to the case in all SOCieties,and even under the most extreme form of
explain common values or systems of evaluation by a theory of capitalism there are other avenues than wealth to both status and
power or of material interests. In other words, the theoretical
approach of which I am mistrustful is the one for which the bad power.
One can in fact take examples from modern Western societies to
name is 'reductionist' and the good name is 'unified'; the approach show that although status·and power are often combined, the de-
which I propose to follow is described as 'pluralist' by its advocates mands of the two are in many ways incompatible. Status groups
and 'eclectic' by its critics. are as it were by their nature exclusive; the symbols of status are
(Corresponding to the two principal sources of inequality are the exclusive and, if they are to maintain their superiority of status,
11\ major dimensions of inequality, or its two major scales of gradation. people must pursue exclusive styles of life. On the other hand, demo- I
These are commonly described as the scale or dimension of status on cratic politics, which is one of the important avenues of power in I

the one hand and of power on the other. Status relates to the esteem modern societies, requires aspirants to power to define their identity
and respect that are accorded to qualities and positions which are in inclusive rather than exclusive terms. It is thus that in countries
valued in themselves; it is of the essence that esteem and respect are like Britain~r India-leaders of the people often pursue/~)lle style
here freely accorded. Power refers to the obedience and compliance of life in private (for thems,elves and their family) and a different
that some more than others are able to command by virtue of'the st1l~ of life in public (fO.r themselves and their constituents).
positions they hold in society; here it is of the essence that some are (Jhus it is clear that' while status and power are to some extent
able to impose their will on others despite their resistanc~ mutually convertible, one cannot be wholly reduced to the other.
It must be made clear that power and status are analytically Status._?-nd power are based on different principles which appear
separable'concepts, that the scale of status is different from that of beyond a certilih'pointto be incompatible'. Schemes of analysis
power. It is of course true that the same person may enjoy both which seek to explain all forms of inequality by a single principle
status and power, although not to the same extent in every society. often end with either tautology or platitude~ No general study of
Some societies even take pains to keep the two separate inprincip1e. inequality can be regarded as truly sociologica1 unless it places due
Thus, it has been said that in traditional Hindu society a separation emphasis on the almost endless variety of the actual forms of
was made in principle between the Brahmin and the king, the former
inequality. '
being accorded the highest status, the latter enjoying the most Given the fact that all societies apply schemes of evaluation, one
can think of many such schemes since the criteria of evaluation are
It is also easy to see that whatever the formal principle might be, many. It would be useless to attempt an inventory of all the criteria
in practice status and power can to some extent be converted into that have been devised and used by men throughout the world for
each other in every society. Those to whom people show esteem and placing each other on a hierarchy of status. Even if the number of
respect of their own accord can and often do use their position to such criteria is not unlimited, it must be quite large. One may perhaps
command obedience from the same people and from others; but think of each culture as selecting from the total stock a limited
there is a limit beyond which this becomes a hazardous venture, for number of criteria and using them in the discrimination and ranking
respect and esteem which are freely givencatl also be freely with- of groups and individuals.
drawn. Likewise, those who command obedience also enjoy some Clearly there are attempts within each culture to bring about some
respect. if not from everyone at least from their subordinates; but consistency between the different criteria of evaluation, and one
here again people in power seem to enjoy the most respect when they obvious way of doing this is by placing the criteria themselve& in
are furthest removed from the ultimate source of power which is some kind of a hierarchy. Here again, one may say that a single,
physical compulsion. unified hierarchy of all the criteria of evaluation recognised ir a
( 1n modern Western societies status and power are often confused
because under capitalism both are to a considerable extent associated
The Two Sources 01 Inequality 21
20 The Two Sources (II "'Ilt/,lt/Ilty
deal in greater detail with evaluation and hierarchies of status,
society is more an ideal thnn 1\ reality. One may go further and say
taking a number of familiar examples. After considering some of the
that it is more an ldeal r
t h ld 01 gues than of the ordinary people
major premises on which systems of hierarchical values have been
who in all societies apply more than one scheme of status gradation
built; I shall examine in detail social gradation in the Indian caste
without being acutely. troubled by the need to be logically consistent.
system, which has gone further than perhaps any other system in the
The problems of organisations likewise vary greatly according to
elaborateness and rigour with which it has developed an ideology
'the size, location and distribution of the population, the history of
the people, their social and cultural diversity, the material resources of hierarchy. I shall then consider briefly gradations of status and
available to them, and the technological apparatus at their command. ideas of hierarchy in some other societies.
Just as human beings have in different places and times created a In chapter 3 I shall devote myself to the problems of organisation
and the distribution of power. Here I shall examine in some detail
variety of schemes of evaluation, they have in the same way devised'
the place of rules and sanctions in social life. After considering their
a variety of forms of organisation. As a consequence, the distribution
place in simple organisations, I shall show how rules and sanctions
of p0'Yer, like the gradation of status, varies from one society to
are co-ordinated in organisations on a large scale. I shall discuss in
another. .
some detail the part played by the centralised state in modern
. Since we have argued that the gradation of status and the distri-
industrial societies in creating and maintaining inequalities of power
bution of power vary to some extent independently of each other,
and, through them, other types of social inequality. I shall try to
we must examine each of these separately and in their mutual reia-
show that the distribution of power sustains inequalities in demo-
tionshipsin order to form a proper understanding of the systems
of social inequality. In its detail the system of inequality in each cratic as well as totalitarian regimes.
Ci"nequalities of status and of power are universal features of
society is a unique combination of a number of different factors.
human societies. It is true that hierarchical values have been developed
This does notmean that societies cannot be grouped together for
much more elaborately in some societies than in others just as central-
purposes of comparative study. However, we must remember that
ised states have been organised much more efficiently in some
-the number and complexity of the factors involved make all classi-
fications to some extent arbitrary. There is no danger when we use countries than in others, but the logic of~erarchy and of dominance
a classification as a rough guide in the systematic study of reality; is in its fundamentals everywhere the same; There are two major
the danger arises only when we begin to regard it as a fixed and manifestations of inequality in contempojary societies which I shall
treat separately in the two succeeding chapters. Chapter 4 is devoted
unalterable scheme.
to property and social class, and chapter 5 to race and social strati-
I shall now give a brief outline of the plan of the book. As I have fication.
Class is the term most widely used in the modern world to des-
already indicated, I do not pretend to have a unified general theory
cribe the inequalities among groups or categories of persons. It is so
which will ,at once explain all forms of social inequality, and I do
widely used, not only by scholars but by people in every walk of life,
not believe that such a theory exists or is likely to come into existence
that it may appear futile to try to fix a single, specific meaning to it.
in the forseeablefuture. At the same time, I do not propose to des-
Underlying the variety of meanings given to the term, there is the
cribe a series' of cases of social inequality, choosing from among the
view, often explicit and almost always implicit, that class is based on
many that are available a few on some basis of representativeness.
economic factors. As is well known,(Marx linked the concept of
What I propose is to discuss some of the main or, better, more
class to the institution of property or private ownership of the means
interesting forms of inequality prevalent in contemporary societies
of production)This in my view is the most fruitful way of looking at
in terms of certain basic principles whose mutual I
class; but if we look at it in this way, we see it as being historically
have already indicated, are to some extent indeterminate.
specific, manifest in some societies but not in all, unlike status and
I have briefly indicated above the nature of evaluation and its
significance for the gradation of status. In the next chapter I shall power which are universal features of social life.
22 The Two Sources of inequality
In studying property and class, we examine as it were the interplay
of status and power in a given institutional field. Property, wealth
and income give access to things that are valued; income is valued in
Notes and References
The Two Sources of Inequality

1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, fA Discourse on the Origin 'of Inequality' in J.-J.

itself and, under capitalism, it has a tendency to become the measure Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd.,
1938, p. 174.
of all values. Property, or the private ownership of the means of 2. Ibid.
production, also gives one control over persons. It is in this dual 3. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Function in Primitive Soclely, Cohen
role that property becomes the most important marker of inequality and West Ltd., 1952, p. 189. .
4. Emile Durkhelm and Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification, Unlversltycr
in many societies. . Chicago Press, 1963.
Differences of race do not relate to social inequality in quite the 5. Claude Levi-Strauss, The Rowand the Cooked, Jonathan Cape, 1970. This is
same way as those of property. For one thing, they are not manifest the first in a series of.four volumes called Mythologlques.
in all societies or even in all complex societies. For another, even 6. Talcott Parsons, fA Revised Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social.
Stratification' in Reinhard Bendix and Seymour Martin Lipset (eds.), Class,
when they are present they do not necessarily become significant Status and Power, A Reader in Social Stratification, The Free Press, 1953, p. 93.
bases of social inequality. Two major historical deveopments, 7. Michael Young. The Rise of Meritocracy, Penguin Books, 1961.
colonialism and slavery, have mainly-been responsible for structuring 8. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Dent, 1973. .
9. See in particular Bronislaw Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society,
inequalities of'both status and power along the lines of race or Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1926. >
inherited physical difference. A consideration of these raises questions 10. Isaac Schapera, Government and Politics in Tribal Societies, Watts, 1956.
about inequalities in the international system over and above those 11. Max Gluckman, Politics, Law and Ritual in Tribal Society, Basil Blackwell,
present within national societies to which sociologists have mainly 1965, p. 85. .
12. Robert Michels, Political Parties, A Sociological Study 0/ the Oligarchical
confined their attention. Tendencies of Modern Democracy, Dover Publications, Inc., 1959.
Chapter 6 deals with continuity and change. It examines first the
mechanisms through which inequalities are maintained in a society.
They are maintained through common values as well as the monopoly
of power. Competition for status through emulation, and competition
for office through participation do not necessarilyremove inequali-
ties; in fact they often serve to. maintain them and to give them
legitimacy. Societies differ on the whole according to the degree of
disharmony between their existential and normative orders. When
the normative order is built on the premise of equality, inequalities
in the existential order are bound to be a source of tension, conflict
and change. .
The last chapter deals with the egalitarian society. It re-examines
the concept of primitive communism in the light of evidence pro-
vided by anthropological research."It also examines the part played
by the market on the one hand and the state on the other in dealing
with the problem of inequality. Although these have been viewed
since the beginning of the modern age as the principal institutions
through which inequalities might be removed, they have themselves
created new, less visible but no less real, inequalities while mitigating
some of the old.

• I