THE DOMINANT MAN: The Pecking Order in Human Society by George & Humphrey Knipe Maclay

THE DOMINANT MAN: The Pecking Order in Human Society

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The pecking order in chickens and apes and man seems to be a biological imperative suggest authors Maclay and Knipe who present the variants and refinements of rank from Samoa to General Motors. Facial expression, posture, ritualized ""pseudofights"" indicate social status: downcast eyes are submissive, a swagger or strut suggests high dominance. So far it sounds like more body language. But no, the authors are grounded in Lorenz and Adler and head fast toward a neo-Social Darwinist explanation of class stratification. Postulating a kind of ideal-type meritocracy presumably characteristic of post-industrial society where all are equally free to scramble for rank and status, they ignore empirical racial and economic barriers in the struggle over who gets to be top dog. The notion of biological inevitability for politically expedient bureaucratic hierarchies carries a back-handed implication that all ideologies built around egalitarian aspirations are sham and delusion. The earned-rank system of Marxist vs. capitalist countries is seen as differing only in an emphasis on titles as against cold cash; and ""the ability to maintain a high level of thrust"" is touted as the route to personal as well as national power in today's ""legally contained free-for-all."" A schematic cross-cultural survey of status symbols, one-up-manship, and ethnographers' lab reports verifying Orwell's common-sense observation that some pigs are more equal than other pigs. The missing historical matrix makes for a high level of generalization and abstraction and the speedy ascent up the evolutionary ladder from insects to primates to sophisticated human societies leapfrogs centuries of development. Provocative rather than convincing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Delacorte