Natural Hierarchy and Proclaimed Hierarchy

In this essay, two human hierarchies will be assumed to coexist. These are -

  • The natural hierarchy and
  • The proclaimed hierarchy.

These hierarchies can be somewhat consistent and similar. They are positively correlated to a degree. However, they can also be very different in many respects.

The Natural Hierarchy

The natural hierarchy is the human hierarchy as determined by instinct. It is based upon the degree of desirability of traits. These traits include appearance, intelligence, emotional make-up, and capabilities. An individual's position within the natural hierarchy is decided by the desirability levels - instinctively determined - of these characteristics in this individual - actually by the combination of the levels of desirability of these traits. The natural hierarchy is probably perceived in the same way by almost everyone.

Cognizance of the natural hierarchy, including ones own place in it and the positions of others in it, is held by almost everyone. However, this knowledge is commonly denied by those not in the upper echelons of this hierarchy, though the knowledge is still quite operative in regard to the emotions it engenders. Also, for about everyone, clear awareness of the natural hierarchy is obscured by the emphasis and attention given the proclaimed hierarchy.

The desirability levels of the attributes upon which the natural hierarchy is based are largely unalterable. The most pronounced exception to this involves capabilities. Many capabilities can be improved through practice, determination, and experience. However, because the desirability levels of most of the traits upon which the natural hierarchy is based largely remain constant, ones place in the natural hierarchy largely remains constant.

The Proclaimed Hierarchy

The proclaimed hierarchy is a hierarchy that is consciously recognized and overtly expressed. It is based upon factors over which people have more control than they do over most of those factors that decide the natural hierarchy. The proclaimed hierarchy arises from what those who are not in the upper echelons of the natural hierarchy would like the human hierarchy to be. Because many fall lower in the natural hierarchy than they would like, then they declare different criteria or different emphases in deciding the human hierarchy than is the case instinctively and in actuality.

Unlike the natural hierarchy which is viewed the same way by just about everyone, the proclaimed hierarchy can be viewed differently by different people due to the variety of criteria that can be utilized to determine it. However, because people communicate with one another, there is a generally recognized proclaimed hierarchy. Those persons who can communicate their own preferences in regard to the human hierarchy to a broader audience than can others will have the most influence in determining the proclaimed hierarchy.

Factors that commonly determine and express the proclaimed hierarchy include such things as -

  • Income,
  • Material possessions,
  • Vocation,
  • Degree of attention received,
  • Various credentials,
  • Individuals associated with,
  • Place of residence,
  • Aspects of personal grooming,
  • Etc.

Behaviors that are commonly seen in efforts of those seeking to establish the truth of and placing emphasis upon the proclaimed hierarchy are the following:

  • They may seek the approval and the acceptance of those higher in the natural hierarchy. The assumption here is that this will demonstrate that they are equal to these.
  • Also, they may vent hostility upon those higher in the natural hierarchy. This hostility stems from feelings of inferiority to and envy of these. One thing often seen in this regard is that they strive to make individuals who are higher than are they in the natural hierarchy, lower than are they in the proclaimed hierarchy. Venting hostility upon those higher in the natural hierarchy acts as a means to gain revenge upon these individuals and is seen as a means to establish that one is less inferior relative to these persons, is equal to them, or is superior to them.


The natural hierarchy is determined by instinct. The proclaimed hierarchy is a cultural construct. An individual's place in the natural hierarchy remains constant. An individual's place in the proclaimed hierarchy is decided by factors that are more controllable than are those which decide the natural hierarchy.