Class and hierarchy, few notes

Finnish newspaper Helsingin sanomat wrote (21.7.2015, 2) “experts describe the terrorist organization ISIS as extremely hierarchical, even  class society.” What caught my attention was not the nature of ISIS, but the vague assertion that “class society” was said to be the extremest form of extreme hierarchy. Even though hierarchy is a common part of class structure, it is not the most definitive attribute, nor has the hierarchy have to be extreme. Categorization and group identification are much more essential parts in how a class society is constructed, than hierarchy. Naturally, there is in most cases one group or class with most power in their hands, but the power can also be distributed between class fractions. One interesting and overlooked experiment of the fascist Italy of Mussolini was that the parliamentary power was shared between different classes. This was meant to include all class groups in the governmental decision-making. The fascist government had other hierarchical aspects, but the class structure wasn’t the most extreme form of hierarchy. Class society is a bad word for many, and many consider it the example of the evil in the society – solely based on intuition and past labeling. The class structure in itself is not bad or good, but a result of natural social processes. If the distance between social groups grow, the possibility of discrimination, exploitation etc. grow. But that is not inevitable. Therefore class society is not a synonym for extreme hierarchy, only a way to describe and analyze society, its formation and social processes.


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