Readers: Please Note that this is an extremely long post broken into several parts which includes numerous links to background information. I’ve chosen to post it in its entirety to allow the reader the option of reading it in total, or ‘nibbling’ on the parts. If you’d like to read it in parts, I suggest you bookmark the page and come and go at your leisure. All references to “culture,” with the exception of those specifically identified in the section on the baboon studies of Sapolsky, refer to human culture as a whole.
Your comments, feedback, and ideas on this important topic are welcomed and encouraged. I especially recommend perusal of Part 5 which discusses the findings of Dr. R. M. Sapolsky.
Part 1. Social Dominance Theory – the Basics
Social dominance theory posits that once a group establishes dominance within a culture they will create and use institutions and legitimizing myths to maintain their dominance and control over the resources of the society. There are three basic categories where social dominance is exercised: age, gender, and arbitrary. The dominant group uses its dominance to control access to the culture’s resources while subordinate groups have those resources meted out to them by virtue of rules established by the dominant group.
This dominance is supported by both those in the dominant group and those who are in the subordinate group(s) by indoctrination through ideologies and legitimizing myths. (Some of you may have heard me refer to these legitimizing myths in the past as “patriarchal educational materials.”) This indoctrination is effected through the establishment of institutions that are run by the dominant group such as governments and religious institutions. Anyone who rejects or tries to change the legitimizing myths or challenge the ideologies are attacked and rejected by society as deviant and destructive or dismissed as odd and undesirable; however, the tendency for counter-movements to arise from out of the subordinate groups has been noted and the success of these counter-movement is directly related to the subordinate group’s ability to fend off attacks from those who wish to destroy them or takeover by those who are in or support the dominant group’s cultural status.