Hands on the Cave Wall: the neverending human revision of inequality and community

We have been discussing the 'Archaeology of Inequality' on the OAC and as usual some of the discussion was a little chaotic, some a bit elliptical, but there were some striking insights there it, or at least so it seems to me.

Two strands stood out.

1. The trend toward inequality is ongoing and inevitable. John argued that the trend toward hierarchy in human affairs is inevitable because Pareto-Barabasi style 'winner takes all' processes appear whenever networks form and arrive at a certain scale. In this view, regardless of human intentions, whenever a resource becomes available and begins to accumulate then a relatively tiny number of actors will acquire radically disproportionate access to that resource. More broadly, when we look across a whole range of phenomena from avalanches to evolutionary adaptation, to human economic activity, we find that, once elements are networked then a few nodes will attract most of the activity (or goodies) in the network (see Keith Hart on this).

I agree that we can observe these kinds of effects at work in different human domains -- for example the more that 'money' becomes a meta-symbol that can be deployed across very distinct scenes of human value then the more the Pareto-style effect seems to take hold -- greater and greater quantities of this abstract money commodity accumulate in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of actors. Piketty and others have commented on this in depth. 

If this effect is an ever-present potential in how social relationships organise themselves into networks then it is also a potentially very dangerous one. Money, for example, isn't just an abstract symbol, it works because of trust between people about how the abstract signifier and certain things in the world connect to each other -- in other words, it effects not only what the world means to the people who live in it, but also what their own lives mean to others around them. If, for example, by merely sitting on money, by way of compound interest etc., certain people can trap huge quantities of the money-signifier rather than redistributing it back into the network then this can have drastic effects on the economic activity of (and the meaning of the world for) most other people. Similarly, (we started by talking about Graeber's paper on Shilluk kingship) if the use of violence becomes concentrated in one person's hands in a society, then society itself starts to take the shape of something inherently arbitrary and violent. 

If all this is true, then, ideologically and practically there seem to be various ways that human beings can respond to it. For example, according to Pospisil, Kapauku Papuans are (or were in the 1950s) secularist business-minded (almost Ayn Randian) libertarians, but they could nonetheless see the dangers of hoarding money (shell money, cowries, in this case) for their individualistic economic set up. So they took a drastic approach: anyone who refused to redistribute their personal money-hoard in loans to new business ventures (business took the form of raising pigs) was taken out and shot. The money, now under the control of relatives, was reissued in loans to budding entrepreneurs.

However, the Kapauku don't have a monopoly on solutions to the dynamic of inequality. Four possible kinds of response (a quad borrowed loosely from Mary Douglas) would include the following practical philosophies:

1. variants of Fatalism, Stoicism, Buddhism: you may not like it but unequal distributions of capacities and goods are inevitable--get over it, radically accept it, look inward at what you can change in your own thought processes, not outward at events over which you have no control.

2. variants of Vitalism, Libertarianism, Individualism: be the hub of your own network, revel in your own uniqueness and the inequality and unevenness of things; take delight in specificity instead of looking for order; wallow deeply in the irrationality of human intentions and the chaotic arbitrariness of how the world manifests itself.

3. variants of Contractarianism, Communitarianism, Keynesianism: acknowledge the danger of incipient unequal access to good things, but act collectively and individually to change the dynamic by all means possible-- use rational and emotional forces to educate, inculcate shared responsibility, redistributive ethics etc.

4. variants of Epicurianism, Platonism, Hinduism etc: the world is by nature hierarchically ordered; invigorate and enjoy the values of a hierarchical society -- everything and everyone can occupy a fulfilling position in the social order from which they can come to understand themselves and the world.

This, it seems to me was the second strand of our discussion:-

2. Hierarchy means nothing without the human capacity for symbolisation and thence the creation of a cosmological 'outside' for human experience. In a series of dazzling interventions Lee pointed to the fact that before you can have the idea of hierarchy you have to have a cosmology. And he suggested that to understand the invention of cosmology you have to recognise the drug-induced, mind-altered state of the shaman who becomes the translator of the cosmos idea for what then becomes a community. We have in other words to start with cosmological awareness itself. Rather than summarising, here is one post by Lee from that exchange:

 Regarding the “lost space” of prehistoric hand stencils:

In one way or another the 'outside' is the cosmological shell. In that respect, and I don't think anyone has remarked on this to my knowledge, these hand 'prints' are quite revealing. They are created by spraying pigment across the surface of the hand, -- the hand creates a lost space around which the pigment falls on the cave surface. Suppose that what is at work here is a reflection on the subjective inside versus the cosmological outside.
    This is an important idea that leads into the depths of an inquiry into the nature of symbolization.  The image of a human hand, its representational form, is not a concrete thing but, as you say, a “lost space,” an absence.  For me this thought evokes the foundational argument of Eco’s semiotics: communication – meaning – is an absent structure.  Recall that the first version of Eco’s (ponderous and canonical) A Theory of Semiotics was a much less formal essay in Italian, La struttura assente.  Essentially the same idea surfaces in Leach’s classic essay on animal categories, in which he argues that the continuum of animal life is broken up by conceptual gaps – absences – that demarcate traditional categories of animal (pets, livestock, game, “wild” animals).  Mary Douglas on taboo also employs that kernel argument.  I pirated the idea in framing a theory of culture in Dreamtime:   

In the spirit of Galileo, if not with his rigor, I would suggest that the anthropocentric Cartesian cogitoholds only if, invoking the principle of cultural generativity, we conceive of humanity as an absence at the center of things, a cipher to be filled with meaning through the operations of an artifactual intelligence.  The fact that people think at all, that they are cultural beings who do things and effect changes in their surroundings, is due to the pronounced uncertainty, the relentless unclarity of their lives. 


    I’ve often wondered about those hand stencils in the caves.  They are among the earliest extant form of human symbolization, but how can we begin to reconstruct the meaning they held for their creators?  As well as their intriguing “lost space” composition, I wonder about: Why hands?  Why not say, feet, or even a stenciled head (produced by another artist as the subject pressed his head against the cave wall)?  A thought I had is that the human hand is an excellent sign of both human distinctiveness and – what folks now like to go on about – agency.  In a world populated by humans, animals, and totemic spirits, the human talent to make things, our artifactual intelligence, and thereby create a whole new class of beings (tools) was hugely important. 

    The only way to go beyond speculation about the hand stencils and other cave paintings and petroglyphs is to continue in the vein of Lewis-Williams and look closely at the subject matter, context (which drawings occur together), and location (which part of the cave) of images.  Even so, there remains a thick veil between the Upper Paleolithic mind and our own (and run the clock ahead twenty or thirty thousand years, and guess what?).  So, your thought that The Sorcerer may be a monkey god, a source of hilarity is as plausible as other interpretations (I like the idea because it’s so different from my own first impression: I found the image chilling – thinking, I guess, what if I’d seen that thing coming at me in my dreams?)  

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All the way through reading this, Huon, I expected you to come up with the but...that inequality and hierarchy generate their dialectical negation, equality, community, sharing. In fact you do, but in a passage with so many exciting variations that it is easy to lose the concepts that count.

In his April 2015 Anthropology Today essay, "An anthropological manifesto", Marshall Sahlins claims that inequality is normal in pre-modern kingdoms and the ilk, but he ends by claiming that we should study the rare cases where equality has been seriously attempted. What I take this to mean is that many anthropologists have grown up on egalitarian politics and ideologies which they imagine are or ought to be universal. Inequality then becomes deviant. But this belief is not arbitrary. Modern nation-states have been built on the idea that a community of citizens, however spurious in fact, must experience reductions in their own inequality if the community is to survive and even prosper.

In the paper that you linked to above, I argued that in the late 19th century people knew about unequal distributions (including Pareto's), but they imagined that the normal distribution was ubiquitous, finding it in criminal stats, astronomy, plant genetics, head shapes etc. Similarly, in the neoliberal era, the extreme inequality of the power law is now found everywhere. There are practical differences between the two regimes. Thus a utility always costs more to deliver to remote places. You could charge consumers that variable cost or you could average the cost out so that a telephone call costs the same everywhere. Of course in our benighted times, the principle of get what you can from all the victims has been restored, but that doesn't mean that inequality is inevitable nor that equalizing the cost of providing utilties was trivial when it prevailed.

Finally, returning to pre-modern polities, I worked with the Tallensi of Northern Ghana. They were a densely settled stateless farming people who were often raided by centralised neighbours for slaves. [In fact they sent so many slaves abroad that the Louisiana folk tales starring Brer Rabbit were lifted from their culture]. But the Tallensi were fiercely egalitarian making many of the symbols of kingship and chiefship taboo -- you couldn't wear clothes or a hat, ride a horse, carry a gun and so on.

The point was that unequal hierarchy and egalitarian community were recognized within a given region, each had its symbols and people variously constructed societies along a continuum defined by the extremes. What they had of course was always a mixture, but everyone could recognize which was which. When I grew up in a poor Manchester street, everyone knew what working class and middle class meant and families were usually made up of members moving in one or the other direction to a varying degree.

I hope I am not an old fashioned Greek, but I can't imagine how human societies could manage without both equality and inequality in dialectical tension. I think this is probably what you are saying, but I lost the thread. I expected it to come out more strongly here than it did.

That is a fair observation; as I mentioned on the other thread, equality within a caste is of course a central principle of a caste system. -- here I left equality and community as an absence like Eco's struttura assente in Lee's description. However if we add inequality dialectically to the recognition of an ordered cosmos, then the idea of equality inevitably reappears. For example:

Animism: 'you are a bear, I am a human, we have unequal surfaces and different places in the cosmos, but under the skin your soul substance is the same as mine; I can transform into you and you into  me--I know that because I dreamed it'

Karmic Reincarnation: 'your position is high in the scheme of things, mine is low, but at some point in the great cycle, your position and mine will no doubt cross over'

Salvationism: 'our current situation in the world is distinct, but we are all equal in the sight of god'

Monetary Libertarianism: 'you have more dollars than me, but my dollar has the same intrinsic worth as yours, it is equal in value, with the same generative power as yours'

Hence Sahlins seems on the wrong track when he says that equality is somehow a modern idea or something that only moderns try to achieve.

Thanks for this bridgehead-post Huon.

All this talk of equality across the post-2008 radical-anthro-proper confuses me. Suddenly it's like everyone knows perfectly well what 'equality' is except me.

'Equality' was for half a century now a gatekeeper to most all ethnographic studies of my own kindred lands, Scandinavia. But then in a purely emic sense, as a cultural construct to be unwrapped and contextualized. In brief, what these studies recurrently expose is the term's remarkable chamelonic semantic qualities in the face of historical change.

'Equality' as a currently emergent etic term in anthropology seems, to my eyes, highly opaque. Some rough fundamental binaries are evident: <Egalitarianism vs. Hierarchy>, <Horizontal vs. Vertical>, <De-/Centralized>...to me these oppositions are just about as usueful as <plus vs. minus> to mathematics: You can't get started without them, but then again, alone they won't bring you far.

Hence, I'd wish that before everone goes flailing around 'equality' with such moral self-evidentiality, we somehow get to a bit more precise meaning of what we mean.

No matter how fascinating, they are, rather than projecting our imaginations about the origins of equality on, say, Upper Paleolithic cave paintings, to me it would seem much more useful to for instance concentrate our efforts on an actual archeology of its political semantics. Didn't Graeber claim to identify its historical origins in some early Sumerian debt-cancelation decree in his debt-book?

Another obvious empirical task would be a more refined typology of all those societal forms that we subsume as 'egalitarian'.


    This is an important discussion.  How equality / inequality and hierarchy / community (egalitarian) articulate is a critical question for our unsettled times. 

    Let me start by noting that pursuing that question too often results in a typology being offered up (I’m at least as guilty as others of doing that).  So Keith is right to steer us away from that line of argument by emphasizing that those named social arrangements are in dialectical relationships.  It does little to say that Society A is egalitarian, Society B hierarchical, for internal forces at work in those societies push and pull them in contrary directions.  As Leach cautioned long ago, we shouldn’t be in the business of butterfly collecting.  In previous discussions I’ve suggested the concept / metaphor of an undertow to describe the mutual influence of contrary beliefs and actions in a social group. 

    That said, it is still useful to employ scales for comparison: social group A is relatively egalitarian with respect to social group B.  But even then things get complicated in a hurry.  It is extremely tricky, and probably downright impossible, to identify a homogeneous group whose members do not assign relative worth on the basis of age, gender, ritual office.  Even for small, isolated groups, diversity is the order of the day. 

    In our “Archeology of Inequality” seminar we used Joanna Overing’s essay on the Piaroa of the Venezuelan interior as an example of an egalitarian society.  Although her essay does not discuss the matter (her other work may well), I would think there is substantial differentiation within the group on the basis of exposure to and familiarity with outsiders.  Amerindian groups of Venezuela and the Guianas have had extensive contacts with outsiders since 16th century explorers reached those areas.  Over four centuries of interaction has resulted in Amerindian communities whose members may include guides, porters, interpreters, provisioners, traders, and officials appointed by a colonial government.  Throughout that long and ongoing process, hierarchical organization has made itself felt, and with a vengeance.  So the “native” egalitarianism of the community is leavened with a hierarchy imposed on the community from outside.  Undertow. 

    But how do / did Piaroa respond to that thoroughly mixed-up situation?  Here Overing’s analysis is brilliant: Piaroa cosmology, which features antithetical forces loose in the world of humans, is a template for their experience of everyday life.  Human existence is riven by irresolvable contradictions.  Simply put, things don’t make sense.  Faced with this fundamental fact of how the world is put together, Piaroa find it impossible to insist on clear-cut divisions of society, to rank individuals on some agreed-on scale.  Instead, since life is devoid of clarity, the only means to negotiate it is through irony: social life is a series of jokes. 

    When you scratch the surface, I would suggest that Piaroa life is not so different from our own.  Ambiguity and ambivalence are the stuff of experience.  With that in mind, I think Huon has hit on an important means by which an ethic of equality is introduced to and survives in a relentlessly hierarchical world: His #2, “Variants of Vitalism . . . take delight in specificity instead of looking for order; wallow deeply in the irrationality of human intentions and the chaotic arbitrariness of how the world manifests itself.

    Right on.  We only need couple this outlook on life with that of our Upper Paleolithic shaman (and latter day entheogenic voyagers) to arrive at a third domain of dialectical tension in society: Let’s add rational / irrational to the fundamentals of social arrangement described by equality / inequality and community (egalitarian) / hierarchy.  

Kristian: All this talk of equality across the post-2008 radical-anthro-proper confuses me. Suddenly it's like everyone knows perfectly well what 'equality' is except me.

It is certainly right to question the notion that we all already know what 'equality' is. Surely there is a certain level at which we do: after all, capuchin monkeys can tell when they are receiving unequal treatment. Inequality has a quite primary quantifiability about it that monkeys and crows can recognise, hence it is hard to credit that it is not available to humans to at some basic level, so, at that level, inequality seems 'simple'. 

Things become more complex when we try to figure out what 'equality' means since it is only possible to make sense of equality from inside a particular cosmology or worldview. I wasn't trying to create a waterproof typology earlier on, simply to make the point that equality appears as a variable and as an absence in every worked out worldview. For example, this picture from the current Irish referendum is positing equality as a technical-rational proposition about people's relationship to the law (below). That is clearly different to the kind of egalitarian politics of the Piaroa in the face of the mythic irrationality of the universe. So, the answer to the question what is equality? depends on what kind of function Equality performs as a variable in your worldview.

The meaning of equality is a not-very-hidden variable in the contemporary debates around the integrity of the U.K. nation state: hence the recent call to reset the border between Scotland and England somewhere South of Sheffield which goes with the slogan 'Take Us With You Scotland':

Sorry about the rowdy language ahead; kids and bunnies climbing everywhere.

The Chapuin case can’t be idly taken as proof of a a sense of ‘equality/inequality’ in Chapuin behavior. Or at least; what that sense is needs to be specified, if we are to do anthropology on a way that is more than merely philosophical/contemplative (e.g., as you may know me by now, as something of scienitific aspirations). What the video shows may reflect a series of other things than a sense of equality: It might be related socio-emotional phenomena, like envy and/or greed. And/or it may simply show that the monkey plainly isn’t that hungry, or is conditioned to know that at the end of the day it won’t go hungry to bed, hence it can afford rejecting less savory food when it has experienced that another kind is immanently available.

As I understand it, the folks behind this study don’t throw up the equality concept. It’s rather about whether animals have moral awareness. Note also that the experiment lacks that flip-side that you’ll soon find lurking around in humans, namely charity; the monkey that gets the best treat doesn’t seem to care the least about any relations beyond itself and that treat.

Playing devil’s advocate like this, I don’t mean to be mean. I just mean that we can’t just take ‘equality’ as an a priori, whether as a cultural or an ontological category. It’s simply way to abstract for that.
Sahlins, I think, spoke of studying, not equality itself, but its origins. In anthropological terms, I’d first think then as a cultural construct (if not, we really have no choice Lee but to start typologizing, lest we confine ourselves to guruship).

Now, in cultural studies of ‘equality’ in Norway, some findings recently came out that I think is very interesting. It seems as if the historical premise on which the idea of ‘equality’ rose to such exquisite cultural prominence here was a quite rare situation of democratically distributed informal political autonomy (largely in terms of ownership and opportunities of pragmatic self-determination). The (small) masses of early 19th century peasants, due to a series of freak incidents, happened to be extraordinarily accustomed to an experience of political autonomy. ‘Equality’ was born as a resistance ideology in the face of the emerging nation state. As the political elites who spearheaded this emergence was extraordinarily weak, it largely had to adopt this ideology to have any success, building it into the fundament of the state apparatus.

So here it is tempting to see equality, yes, as a dialectic phenomenon, as several have pointed out, but then, more specifically, not as a response to it’s seeming antithesis, ‘inequality’, but rather as an response to de facto outside infringements on felt autonomy. With some goodwill, the monkey experiment could be bent into a similar analysis. Also, this view implies that in most of the proto-egalitarian communities that we dream about today, ‘equality’ might actually not have crossed anyone’s minds. The external appearance of equality here might just as plausibly have been a result of ecological factors (i.e. population density, resource availability etc.) rather  than of their cosmologies and how/if 'equality' played a part in them . As things were, at the individual level their personal autonomy was for the most part never under any real threat. Hence, ideas of equality were presumably quite irrelevant.

Schneider once wrote: "All men seek to rule, but if they cannot rule they prefer to be equal". Maybe, at least in its cultural origins, ‘equality’is best seen as primarily as a type of moral resistance impulse in instances of successful political centralization?

I don't mind those provisos at all-- but I should reiterate that I said that 'inequality' was what was obvious to the capuchin monkey -- this is what is quantifiably simple, not the much more complex issue of what equality would look like as a general principle. inequality is a basic feature of quantifiability. The capacity of the capuchins and other animals to understand the quantity/type issue and hence the issue of inequality seems proven to me - how else would the monkey be aware of the affront to its autonomy? I agree that 'equality' may be a much more complicated problem which comes into play once there is some kind of cosmological order in place; and in some cases it may indeed be a question that 'if I can't rule then next best is equality'. Presumably that sentiment is part of why legal systems grow up.

Fine Huon. Sahlins call was about 'equality'. Equally so was the majority of the recent most debates upon whose shoulders this entry stands. I remain highly suspicious that 'equality' has as much to do with 'inequality' as we intuitively like to think.

Agreed again, I think -- we can't assume a meaning for 'equality' In addition, we should take Lee's proviso on board (bottom); societies aren't internally coherent enough to describe them as 'egalitarian' or 'hierarchical' without an immense amount of caution. 

Actual measures of equality/inequality like gini indices are always questionable for what they don't include (such as most of what people actually imagine about their situation). One difference between 'inequality' and 'equality' is that the former is quantifiable in a quite simple way whereas establishing the meaning of equality engages imagination in a much more complex way -- though as Keith pointed out that doesn't stop people engaging in recognisably egalitarian politics:

Keith: I worked with the Tallensi of Northern Ghana. They were a densely settled stateless farming people who were often raided by centralised neighbours for slaves. [In fact they sent so many slaves abroad that the Louisiana folk tales starring Brer Rabbit were lifted from their culture]. But the Tallensi were fiercely egalitarian making many of the symbols of kingship and chiefship taboo -- you couldn't wear clothes or a hat, ride a horse, carry a gun and so on.

And you are right to introduce ‘autonomy’ as another variable, even though autonomy is as complicated a concept as equality, I would have thought. For example, one of the interesting things that the 'take us with you Scotland' idea reveals is that the desire for politico-ethnic autonomy is secondary to a desire to reestablish a moderately egalitarian politics (and economics) based on a perception that there is a fundamental difference of attitude between the people who live clustered round London and Northerners about politics. People who read the rise of Scottish independentism as being about ethnic autonomy (the constantly reiterated idea in the UK liberal press that nationalism is a kind of primordialism hence what is going on in Scotland currently is really primordialism) – those commentators are misunderstanding the situation very badly.

What I read in Sahlins was his claim that hierarchy has always been with us because humans have always had to negotiate their occupancy of the world with other non-human agents in an unequal cosmos. As Lee pointed out, that seems to be a change of tune from the Original Affluent [and Egalitarian] Society Sahlins told us about all those years ago.

Dialectics. When I first saw Keith' reference to a dialectic I misread him as suggesting that the contradiction between Inequality and Hierarchy gives rise to the elaboration of Equality. I misread him because to me inequality and hierarchy are contradictory - hierarchy is an attempt to stabilise inequality as a feature of cosmological order, but inequality is relentless ; it can appear in any and every situation you like. Unlike hierarchy, inequality ultimately presents no stable order whatever. The urge toward equality could then be understood as an attempt to stabilise inequality in the light of the failure of hierarchy to do its job properly. In Leach's Highland Burma Study, for example, the swings toward hierarchical or egalitarian politics stem from unequal and unstabilisable flows in the direction of one set of social actors or another which lead to a shift in cosmological emphasis - now hierarchy, now egalitarianism.

So, yes to suspicion about an obvious consequential relationship between awareness of inequality and some grand political demand for equality. When we jump from the basic recognition of inequality to the general principle of equality we are making a big leap right through some historical situation in which one or other notion of equality has become well-rooted -- as with your Norwegians. 

Lee: As Leach cautioned long ago, we shouldn’t be in the business of butterfly collecting.  In previous discussions I’ve suggested the concept / metaphor of an undertow to describe the mutual influence of contrary beliefs and actions in a social group. 

    That said, it is still useful to employ scales for comparison: social group A is relatively egalitarian with respect to social group B.  But even then things get complicated in a hurry.  It is extremely tricky, and probably downright impossible, to identify a homogeneous group whose members do not assign relative worth on the basis of age, gender, ritual office.  Even for small, isolated groups, diversity is the order of the day. 

When it comes to signifying hierarchy and inequality, the TV show Suits is the Downton Abbey of American society.

The following differences show up:

In Suits what is emphasised is the constant agonistic struggle, high up in the Suits skyscraper, to have a bigger office. Brutality, Cleverness, Stupidity and Loyalty are crucial dynamics. All of the lawyers in the Suits towerblock went to Harvard, but magically the two protagonists have jumped from lowlife backgrounds to become the kingpins of this upstairs world. But from their current position they continually have to fight to stop their office space from shrinking.

In Downton Abbey nobody is moving vertically on the social scale except by way of a catastrophic fall. What is foregrounded is the vertigo of people high up (and at every level of hierarchy) realising that they might trip downward. There is a lot of whirligig, intra-house activity and horse-jumping in Downtown Abbey to make up for the wooden frieze-like posture of the key characters who are trying to remain as static as possible.

In Suits hierarchical structures hold the tottering lives of the protagonists together. They grapple to get hold of and exchange the signs of hierarchy -- one person is an opera buff, another has a large collection of vinyl records and so forth; but they are seemingly oblivious to the structural dimension of hierarchy since they are too busy fighting each other with too much gusto--and this interpersonal strife would not be so much fun if it were to turn out that the underlying hierarchy was already a fait accompli.

The Suits people live their sense of interpersonal inequality with great elan and are largely blind to structural hierarchy (they can always use magic anyway). The folk in Downton Abbey live hierarchy: in contrast, it is inequality that is largely meaningless to them because positions don't change.

Huon, I can feel the excitement that you bring to the distinction between hierarchy and inequality, but I don't buy it. Equality and inequality are about treating people as fellow human beings or not -- binaries like free/slave, male/female, lords/commoners, adult/child, Israeli/Palestinian, European/immigrant etc. We know what can happen to a society when this is allowed to run unchecked. "Equal" often remains indeterminate, but everyone knows what being unequal means. Hierarchy is the attempt to stabilise inequality by making it legitimate. I like David Graeber's distinction between reciprocity and hierarchy: the first sets up a debt that is conceived of as being temporary, in the second the debt is permanent. Rousseau, in his second discourse, is good on when inequality is contingent and when it matters socially.

And social positions are fixed in Downton Abbey? What about the men the sisters end up with? Matthew is middle class but could inherit the pile by a fluke. Tom is a quasi revolutionary Irish prole. The married editor...Before it descended into farcical melodrama, DA made a shot at depicting class fluidity after WW1.


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