We can represent the possibilities of hierarchy with a matrix of hierarchy. It looks like this:
|Believes himself to be inferior||Believes himself to be superior|
|Person A||Believes himself to be inferior||Classical Equality (each looks up to the other)||Domination|
|Believes himself to be superior||Domination||Conflict (each believes himself to be better than the other)|
In a world of hierarchy, each of us believes himself either to be better or worse than others, but never equal. When two people meet, there are therefore four possible relationships that can appear between them.
Two are relationships of domination, which occur when one believes himself to be better than the other and the other agrees.
One is a relationship of conflict, which occurs when each believes himself to be better than the other.
And the third is a relationship of equality, which occurs when each believes himself to be worse than the other, with the result that each seeks to follow the other and do for the other. I call this a relationship of “classical” equality because it is the only equality known before the modern period.
The matrix of hierarchy explains why domination is so often associated with hierarchical thinking: it is the most common outcome (i.e., you find it in two of the four boxes in the matrix).
It also explains why conflict is often associated with hierarchical thinking.
Finally, the matrix of hierarchy explains why romantic love so flourished in the premodern world, for is romantic love not an example of a relationship characterized by mutual feelings of admiration—of looking up at the beloved?
The new conception of equality that came into being with the modern world can be represented by a box of equality:
|Believes himself to be no better or worse|
|Person A||Believes himself to be no better or worse||Modern Equality|
The modern conception of equality eliminates domination and conflict. It also eliminates that sweetest of all relationships, that of mutual admiration, which I have called classical equality. It eliminates love.
Question: Can we have classical equality without domination or conflict? Can we have a world in which each man looks up to every other?
That would be the best of all possible worlds.
It might require only that we change the way we look at others.
Or it might require that we change ourselves.