The feudal system, whose economic basis lay in the exploitation of the serfs by the feudal proprietors, involved complex social relationships of dependence, subordination and allegiance. All this was reflected, not only in social and political philosophy, but also in the philosophy of nature.

[Materialism and the Dialectical Method - Maurice Cornforth]

I don't know the use of the word "of" in the text. Does the author mean that "relationships between dependence, subordination and allegiance"?

1 Answer 1


Merriam-Webster has a couple of meanings of "of" that could work here. I think that this one fits best:

—used as a function word to indicate a characteristic or distinctive quality or possession
//a woman of courage

In other words, "dependence, subordination and allegiance" are characteristics or distinctive qualities of the "complex social relationships".

  • Thanks! Could I replace "of" with "in relation to" without changing the meaning?
    – XVI
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 15:53
  • 1
    @XVI NP! The phrase "in relation to" usually provides context (e.g., "I considered your comment in relation to this question and not in relation to any other part of this website"), so I think that it would change the meaning slightly. Perhaps the closest paraphrase would be: ". . . involved three complex social relationships: dependence, subordination and allegiance." Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 16:15
  • 1
    I get it! thanks!
    – XVI
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 16:20

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