Hierarchies in Society and Space: Reflections on their Orogenesis

  • Robert A. Dodgshon
Part of the Critical Human Geography book series


The first emergence of ranked and stratified societies, the replacement of homogeneity with hierarchy, marks one of the great systemic changes in the history of mankind. By a ranked society is meant one which displays differences of absolute status and power between individuals and groups. By a stratified society is meant one which displays differences between individuals or groups in terms of their accessibility to resources and their accumulation of wealth. The appearance of such hierarchically stretched societies clearly signals important changes in the nature of both social and economic ralations. Accompanying these changes were far-reaching adjustments in the organisation of society. For Renfrew, the prehistorian can read this organisational development from visible changes in spatial organisation: the one embodying the impact of the other on landscape. As a transformation of spatial order, the shift towards ranking and stratification in society led to the emergence of dominant centres within systems of spatial order that had hitherto been organised around homogeneous, egalitarian and structurally-equivalent spaces. Renfrew was especially anxious to highlight this reorientation,

for it is the existence of the centre, and of the central person who generally goes with it and actually does much of the co-ordinating, which establishes the asymmetry which is surely the crucial element of ranked societies, distinguishing them from the essentially symmetrical mechanical solidarity of egalitarian ones (Renfrew, 1982, p. 3).


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Copyright information

© Robert A. Dodgshon 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Dodgshon
    • 1
  1. 1.AberystwythUK

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