No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Hereditary Succession

There is an inherent contradiction between objective social demands and the subjective nature of individuals who must fulfill them. This tension is exemplified in the inheritance of social roles, such as leadership positions, where personal qualities may not align with societal expectations.

Hereditary succession has qualitative aspects, through traits passed down from ancestors, and functional aspects, in maintaining stability within families and societies. Hereditary succession, while seemingly irrational, serves to moderate the discrepancy between societal demands and individual subjectivity. The inheritance of sovereignty in various cultures demonstrates how societies have grappled with this tension between hereditary succession and personal merit. The hereditary nature of certain positions can lead to their decline in importance over time, as real responsibilities are delegated to other officials.

Hereditary office-holding reflects a relatively undifferentiated social condition where societal roles are less specialized. As societies evolve, there is a shift towards merit-based selection rather than strict hereditary succession. So, the inheritance of social roles represents a transitional stage in societal development, where the tension between individual uniqueness and collective societal needs is negotiated. As societies progress, individuals should have more freedom to choose their roles based on personal qualities, leading to greater equality and freedom for both individuals and society as a whole.


Simmel, G. (1908), Exkurs über das Erbamt, in: Soziologie - Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung, p. 514-524, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.