this relationship, the Bs will be kept in thrall by social rules, expectations,rewards and violence. Yet, however much Group A denies the common humanity of theBs, there is no fundamental difference between the two groups, so the rela-tionship can be reversed. The Bs could force the As to work and keep themworking by the use of violence. It is easy to imagine a world turned upsidedown, and many people all over the world have used this striking image asa metaphor for radical change.
Or class hierarchies may be challenged anddestroyed from the outside. Group C may come along and usurp the land,mills and money, and then exploit both Group A and Group B.The people who run any class society are always vulnerable to chal-lenges from below. If those in Group A are to exploit Group B, theymust find ways to reproduce the hierarchy and their claims to ascendancy.Moreover, they have to find some way of transferring their privilege as As,and their unequal share of land or goods, to the next generation.But the justifications Group A offer for its privilege always smell fishy,because they are fishy. Group A may claim to have a longer history, morehonour, a better name, to be smarter, blonder or anointed by a god. Butevery one of these attributes is cultural and variable. This means that suchattributes can be learned, copied, redefined, stolen or usurped.
After all, howblond is blond? And are bottle blondes OK? How well do you have to knowthe classics, or how tall do you have to be, before it counts?Because the attributes that explain and justify inequality are precar-ious and dubious, they must be naturalised, that is, made to seem natural.The differences between the As and Bs must be made to seem unalterable,enduring and important. This is where a gender justification is needed, andhas always been needed, throughout the history of class society.
The gender justification
Our argument starts with the idea that social inequality in class societies isbased on
divisions between people that are ultimately enforced byviolence. But violence by itself is never enough to perpetuate inequalities
3: The idea turns up in many places: in early modern Europe, in the cargo cults of 19thand 20th century Melanesia, in 20th century China and in 21st century Ecuador. See Hill,1991; Lawrence, 1964; Worsley, 1968; Hinton,1966; Parra, 2012.4: Class membership may also be conferred institutionally, for example, via the Catholicchurch which is, in effect, a corporation. In corporations elites share collective interests inmanaging the wealth or goods they hold in common, and vis-à-vis the people who work forthem and whose work supports them. In corporations too inequality is gendered by the sameprocesses as those we describe below.