Approximate History of `Seniority` Term

The meaning of seniority actually comes from ancient times, when people lived in families and their life longed around 25 years. That time being older always meant being bigger, stronger, and wiser. Seniority always meant older and came to everybody with a general succession of generations.

Then we had a stage of tribal organization of society. Tribes are groups of people up to ~150 people usually with basic hierarchy and simple labor division. A lifetime working in small integral groups was pretty similar to living in families — knowledge mostly comes from elder colleagues to younger ones, the difference in experience is obvious, and authority is rarely been challenged. The meaning of seniority had got the additional meaning of team-leadership.

Cultural evolution had given people the possibility to live more concentrated and the society had started inventing different social structures. An almost flat tribal hierarchy had been transformed into a multilevel one. Management institutes had emerged in order to maintain the hierarchy itself, and we'd got `abstract layers` (or levels) of management thus. Seniority has achieved the meaning or the right to make decisions — the higher level you are, the more global decisions you can make.

Eventually, we've got the clubs within social levels. This way it became important to relate to them, have liaisons within and common understanding of how this social system works. In other words, we've got social system segregation and seniority's got the meaning of a higher social class.

The next step is simple. Capitalism. The more money you have, the more influence you have, the higher status you have.

This moment our society lives with the meaning of seniority built on the primary habit of a world of post-industrial revolution world — professional competition. The spirit and cornerstones of this playground are made of professional knowledge and skills. The better specialist you are, the more senior one you are treated as.

The next step will be built on globalization ideology and global competition. And seniority achieves the meaning of abilities to compete in the global market. Or to be related to the world-class professionals, in other words. That usually means the possibility to create world-class products or to provide world-class service. 

P. S. Such topics like dominance rank and religious enlightenment (that bring additional connotation) are not touched in this post intentionally, in order to draw a flat clear line corresponding to the current state of affairs.