Hierarchically Invidious Monism

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Lorraine Code criticizes classical logic for a requirement that “[e]verything has to be either A or Not-A, for A and Not-A exhaust all possibilities. Continuity between the terms is a logical impossibility.”1 This binary is not simply a dualism, for as we progressively conflate A and Not-A with binaries such as true and false, right and wrong, us and them, healthy and ill, white and Black, male and female, rich and poor, etc., it is clear 1) that such binaries are not value-neutral, 2) that one side of each binary is preferred over the other, and 3) that persons associated with the preferred side of each binary benefit from privilege.2 Because of this, Elizabeth Minnich rejects the term dualism to refer to such binaries, preferring instead the term hierarchically invidious monism.3

An obvious objection is that Code’s conflation of these binaries is unwarranted; however, she argues that historically this is what humans have done.4 Indeed, Simon de Beauvoir argues that to do so seems endemic to the human condition.5 Judith Butler argues that “identity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as the normalizing categories of oppressive structures or as the rallying points for a liberatory contestation of that very oppression,”6 which given an additional hierarchically invidious monism of oppressor/oppressed, suggests that an old saw about “divide and rule” may in fact have more than a little to do with how an elite minority maintains hegemony over a relatively deprived majority.7 Howard Zinn accordingly notes a recurring elite strategy to maintain their rule in the United States is to allow just enough to just enough people that the latter do not join with their less fortunate fellows.8

  • 1. Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991), 29.
  • 2. Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991); Patricia Hill Collins, “Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 541-552; Cornel West, “The New Cultural Politics of Difference,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 511-521.
  • 3. Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2005).
  • 4. Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991).
  • 5. Simone de Beauvoir, “Women as Other,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 345-347.
  • 6. Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 563.
  • 7. David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works’,” March 15, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2012/03/15/we-need-know-how-it-works
  • 8. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2005).