According to French social anthropologist Louis Dumont, hierarchy refers to the ‘principle by which elements of a whole are ranked in relation to the whole’, wherein the whole covers its parts. Although this notion was originally intended for the Indian caste system, it may also be applied to modern Western thought, wherein the subordinate parts of a hierarchy are mutually dependent. In medieval writings, particularly those from French society, the metaphor of the body and its limbs are used to portray subordination and how these elements are all important to the functions of the overall ‘body politic’. While the concept of the ‘individual’ is used in the same way with respect to society, this chapter also examines how hierarchy is based not on power or force but on moral or spiritual value.
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