What is the source of class distinction?
The very first class distinction was between mortal and immortal; between human and superhuman. For the primitives it was often the dead who held power. Primitives were “securely immersed in his particular cultural ideology, which was in essence an ideology of life, of how to continue on and on to triumph over death.” Power was and is the basic category of being for which sapiens have fundamental respect.
The primitives recognized a spiritual cosmology wherein power emanated from the “pool of ancestors and spirits”. In the modern world power emanates from technology and money.
The infant recognizes the source of power quickly; power becomes the basic category of being. If one does not get this location of power one will have little opportunity to get anything else correct. Without power one quickly declined in vitality leading to death. The primitives were quick to recognize a hierarchy of power. With power the other basic category was ‘danger.
Since the eighteenth century the great minds have formed this question, ‘what is the source of inequality?’ and have sought the answer. Rousseau asked why humanity had gradually fallen from a primitive state of innocence into the conflicts of classes and states. Marx capitalized (a pun perhaps?) on Rousseau’s idea to remind us that humanity did not all start out as exploited peons. Today this class and state differential is more abundantly clear.
It has been deduced that power and coercion are not the only culprits here, it is that wo/man harbors an “enemy within”; perhaps the “slave is somehow in love with his own chains”.
Rousseau offered this answer “The first person who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took it into his head to say ‘this is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.”
The salient question became ‘not when’ but ‘why’ it happened?
Primitive man recognized differences in talent, strength, and merit and easily deferred to these characteristics. Why—because such characteristics served well the needs of the tribe or community. Certain individuals showed ability for defying death and others wished to share in that immunity.
We see here that he “carries within himself the bondage that he needs in order to continue to live…we are born in need of authority and we even create out of freedom, a prison…This insight is the fruit of the outcome of modern psychoanalysis…it penetrates to the heart of the human condition and to the principle dynamic of the emergence of historical inequality…primitive religion starts the first class distinction…That is, the individual gives over the aegis of his own life and death to the spirit worlds; he is already a second-class citizen.”
“The first class distinction, then, was between mortal and immortal, between feeble human powers and special superhuman beings.”
Quotes from Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker