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A fundamental problem of human understanding concerns the relations of humans to one another in terms of social hierarchy. Hierarchies of social ranking and status or pecking orders, are predominant throughout the animal world, and seem to be inherent to most animal species, by virtue of instinctive or genetic programing. The extent to which hierarchal tendencies apply to human relations has political implications, in terms of how they are used as scientific anthropological authority for political and economic systems, as either oriented toward hierarchal authoritative or non-hierarchal cooperative systems. Theories of the inherent nature of hierarchy may be conjoined with aspects of the theory of evolution called the survival of the fittest, which promotes the idea that competition and violence enhance the ability of species to survive and build superior models of adaptation. Theory such as this is then used to justify the validity of patriarchal hierarchies as opposed to more cooperative equalitarian perspectives.

In a more fundamental sense and on a personal level, the legitimacy of hierarchal stratification affects the individual in terms of one's social ranking in society, as discussed in terms of the concept of The Antipodal Associative Paradigm. Social hierarchy affects the psychology of the individual in terms of things like self-esteem, individual power, ability and freedom, and would seem to be antithetical to the ideals of democratic equality. Are the social constructs of hierarchy inherent to the natural human condition or are they artificial constructs which is supported to suit hierarchal systems which benefit some at the expense of others? Social hierarchy can be said to be conditioned, as learned from birth like the subservient condition of the child to parents, the strictures of age, development and abilities, or the conditioning of the class room. Or it can be said to be inherent to the human condition.

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