If you have "no place to go," come here!

The lifecycle of hierarchies

This is a really interesting post from Club Orlov:

There are many other such examples from many fields, but the pattern should already be clear: when a hierarchical organization—be it a church, a government or a corporation—create a structural impediment, and when a solution is found to circumvent a that structural impediment, even if it is just a quick and dirty one, a leader self-selects to create that alternative. If the effort is a success and the alternative takes root and becomes rampant, in due course it gives rise to a hierarchical organization of its own. In an effort to expand and consolidate its control over the newly created domain, that organization then sets its sights on crafting a new set of structural impediments. But in due course the deathly touch of hierarchy takes its toll, and then the cycle repeats. There doesn't seem to be a lot that can be done to break the cycle, although there is a way to stretch it out by placing the new invention in the public domain (in software, this is done via the General Public License and a few others) or by declaring it an open, public standard. This has the effect of negating, or at least reducing, the undue influence of any one corporate entity, and this is almost always helpful because, first, corporations tend to be short-lived entities, and their influence shortens the lifetime of the invention, and second, corporations pursue profit by any means, such as by working against the interests others. But any significant invention is bound, over time, to come under the control of industry consortia, standards bodies, government regulators and other hierarchical entities, which eventually kill it. They may kill it with diligence or with neglect, but kill it they do, because in order for something to live forever and evolve freely it has to be organized anarchically, and that is a form of organization of which hierarchical organizations happen to be incapable.

I hope that this makes it clear what the practice of anarchism looks like. First of all, someone must lead; not seek a leadership position, not attempt to take charge or cease control, but simply go right ahead and start doing what needs to be done without asking anyone's permission. The goal is to create a viable alternative of which others can avail themselves freely. But in order for this to succeed, the target must be chosen well: a significant structural impediment that can be circumvented with finite effort. Crafting a quick and dirty solution that nevertheless embodies the right set of concepts to scale up and take over is quite a feat, and few people are capable of it, but it is nevertheless something that happens quite a lot. Working either entirely by yourself (in secret if need be) or with a few informal helpers.

The best targets are ones that can be circumvented through individual or small group effort, with minimal start-up costs and where the alternative can spread virally. And the worst? Well, they generally require proposing a package of reforms, organizing politically, engaging in group planning activities, lobbying government and so forth. As Peter Kropotkin put it over a century ago, “It's about time we learned that such is the fate of all revolutionary laws: they are enacted only once they have become the established practice.” So, start practicing!

The poster gives several examples; I think the most suggestive is the pre-Reformation Catholic church (as opposed to the Russia of the Czars) because the the former seems far more totalizing.

No votes yet


Submitted by MontanaMaven on

I spent most of last night devouring his essays including his series on collapse. " what Can Young Professionals and Aging Baby Boomers do to prepare for America's Collapse?" Filled with common sense and an odd optimism.

His essays on anarchism are must reads.

Submitted by lambert on

And the crazy thing is, I had the phrase "complex adaptive system" flitting through my mind right after I read Orlov, and now here is this massive series. Damn.

Not sure of the IVCS/anarchism relation. Can you explicate? I see self-organizing on the diagran a lot but I dunno....

And where did Henk Hadders go?