From Antiquity to the New Common Era
Chapter 9: Society and its leaders
The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new horizons, but in seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust Time and again in this book we dealt with hierarchies and pecking orders in describing social organization. In the animal kingdom, as well as in human groups, there are systems in place that ensure the smooth running of their affairs; to accomplish this, individuals must be ranked according to certain criteria that determine their station in life. It was argued previously that the emergence of leaders and the tendency to form hierarchies is to a large extent genetically preconditioned and is therefore biologically determined. That this is the case in social animals is accepted easily; when we attempt to apply the same way of thinking to humans, however, all bets are off. The nature versus nurture business re-emerges and people have difficulty accepting that their behaviour can be explained better in terms of genetics rather than learning. People intuitively prefer social phenomena to be considered as events resulting from specific time-and-place-locked factors producing such outcomes as leadership and followership independent of biological determinants. Along these lines of thought, various authors have proposed that adaptations for leadership and followership do not exist as such, and that behaviours associated with such roles are simply by-products of adaptations for dominance and submission (Alexander 1987, Hollander 1985, Nicholson 2000, Wilson 1975).
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