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The Good, the Bad, and the Dead: The Place of Destruction in the Organization of Social Life, Which Means Hierarchy

Frederick H. Damon

Keywords: destruction; hierarchy; religion; ritual; sacrifice; social order

Abstract

This article is a thought exercise concerning the following observation: many societies define the good by means of the bad and often organize, wittingly or not, methods of destruction to instantiate the good. Such methods, sometimes dressed up as sacrifice, at other times as scapegoating, and still other times as the experience of necessity, always lead to a hierarchy. Whatever the means, destruction helps to organize social systems throughout the world. The article uses well-known models to develop an understanding of these processes. Beginning with the role of sacrifice in the Kula, the analysis touches on lynching in the United States and then, utilizing underplayed facts in Dumont’s discussion of India, moves to defense spending in contemporary culture. So why is destruction a form of accumulation, the generator of sociality?

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