Introduction

Hierarchy, Value, and the Value of Hierarchy

in Social Analysis

Many of the communities in which anthropologists work are hierarchically organized, and the people who live in them often describe this arrangement in positive terms. Nevertheless, anthropologists rarely paint hierarchy in a favorable light. This special issue aims to question this tendency with ethnographic insights into social contexts where hierarchy is regarded as a desirable social good. By way of an introduction to the research articles, we explore those aspects of Western thought that make it difficult for anthropologists to take hierarchy seriously. In addition, we develop an interpretive approach that treats hierarchy both as a relational form and as a theoretical model—that is, as a framework for understanding value—drawing in part on our own ethnographic research in southern Africa.

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology