Week 7

Top to Botton: Rise of Social Hierarchies

India and Global: From 3000 BCE

As with writing, the rise of social hierarchies is seen as one of the hallmarks of emerging civilization. However, social hierarchies, or the ranking of members of a group based on various criteria, such as class or race, are part of the life of all social creatures. Think of the alpha male and female in a pack of wolves. But the emergence of civilizations, with their large groupings of people, amassing of property, and their need for formal rules and leadership, accentuated the human proclivity for establishing social hierarchies. All civilizations, even the supposedly egalitarian and democratic ones of the modern era, include hierarchies. Perhaps the oldest continuous social hierarchy (other than that based on gender) is that of the caste system of India. Its origins are the subject of much debate but many historians date it to the second millennium BCE invasion of the sub-continent by Aryan peoples of Central Asia, who were among the first to adopt the superior weapons technology made possible by the smelting of iron. Inevitably, as conquerors, they placed themselves above the existing inhabitants of India, ultimately developing the complex and religiously-based caste system that still dominates Indian society today, though with no sanction in law in modern democratic India. 

 

 

Reading:

Text: See Week 7 of Syllabus

Website: Farming and Inequality, Bhagavad Gita, Women in Classical China

 

Writing/Discussion Assignment

 

Lectures:

(all lectures and quizzes are now only available on Blackboard)

Slide Show Only

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