Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

A radical dissident perspective on various topics. Comments welcome at

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Evolution and Organizational Hierarchy

I have come to the conclusion that human beings have evolved in such a way that most are born with the capacity and desire to form groups. Just as chimpanzees naturally form troops with an acknowledged hierarchy, so too humans naturally formed tribes with an acknowledged hierarchy. That is, social organization at the primitive level is not the result of a rational recognition of mutual benefit, a much too tenuous situation, but rather a natural inclination to band together and bond, resulting in the natural formation of tribes essential for human survival. Intrinsic to this tribal predisposition is an inclination for hierarchy which facilitates group unity and effectiveness.

In order to facilitate group formation and cohesion, humans accommodate themselves to fit in the group. This involves both an acceptance of group ideology and finding a suitable role to fill within the group consistent with perceived reality which, in turn, is strongly influenced by group ideology. That is, all members of the tribe tend to accept the legitimacy of the chief, but circumstances dictate whether one could aspire to be chief or perform some other role. As society developed beyond the tribe, the number of roles and functions expanded and the social organization became more formal and elaborate, however, the underlying logic remained unchanged. Personal survival and welfare is intimately related to group membership and group success which, in turn, is strongly influenced by group solidarity. Most accept and defend group hierarchy.

The importance of the group for individual survival and well-being is such that individual actions which act to diminish group solidarity are considered disloyal and sometimes treasonous, and are dealt with harshly. Challenges to group hierarchy are tolerated only to the degree that they are considered legitimate, that is viable with reference to ideology and hierarchical status. While powerful individuals and coalitions may vie for supremacy, most willingly follow the lead of powerful leaders as circumstances warrant. The majority almost never challenge the organizational hierarchy per se. As societies grew larger and more complex, this tribal predisposition remained unchanged so that while people might shift their loyalty among various pretenders to the throne, the legitimacy of monarchy itself remained unchallenged, supported by an increasingly elaborate religious ideology.

Having survived for millennia, hereditary monarchy was finally overthrown by capitalist controlled industrialism which effectively shifted power from a religion justified hereditary hierarchy to a money-power hierarchy justified by nominally democratic forms and ideology. The whole process took several centuries and involved the development and use of elected government to wrest control from the monarchy. There always was less to democracy than met the eye. People continued to align with power, now formally by voting for competing representatives of the new elites. Government, in turn, shifted from implementing the commands of the nobility to managing society consistent with the business objectives of the capitalist elites. And just as the old rule of nobility was considered legitimate, likewise the new capitalist hierarchy and rule of money is seen as legitimate by most. Nowadays, while the citizenry may vote for the major party candidate of their choice, or not vote at all, voting for a non-elite third party candidate or independent is rarely done, apparently considered tantamount to a revolt at the polls against elite rule, and is not considered a serious option by most. The notion that voting third party or independent is a waste of time is both a recognition of elite domination of the political system and a flimsy excuse for not democratically resisting elite control. Exactly how much time is saved by acquiescing to the rule of money?

The implications of all of this are quite significant. Barring a sudden and inexplicable transformation of human psychology, significant change originating at the “grass roots’ is unlikely, democratic mythology notwithstanding. Society is now more-or-less run by the capitalist nobility who oversee the private economy where most of the significant decision making occurs. The political system has been totally corrupted by capitalist money-power, and serves primarily to administer society for the benefit of the elites. Elections and other democratic forms serve to legitimize what essentially is the rule of money. The potential for democratic reform remains dormant due to citizen acquiescence to the current hierarchy of power. The acceptance of group ideology and hierarchy seems at least somewhat hardwired into us, the notion of self-organization outside the group an alien concept.

Of course, there are those who cling to the Marxian illusion that the key to majority rule is through organization. Unionization the perfect example of people banding together to wrest some degree of power from the economic elites. Alas, while organizing the “grass roots” may provide some temporary relief at the local level, as the union grows, a new top down bureaucratic hierarchy asserts itself. While some local unions may be responsive to their members, the international unions are run primarily for the benefit of the officers, and the AFL-CIO is an intrinsic part of the capitalist system of social control, albeit one of decreasing importance in the face of the neo-liberal onslaught. The same holds true for other attempts to harness “people power” to effect social change. The majority feel a certain inherent loyalty to the prevailing system of social organization and hierarchy which transcends rationality. Having accepted the role of the faithful follower, the majority behaves accordingly.