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Hierarchy is here to stay

Among various ‘endisms’ associated with the Internet, the ‘end of hierarchy’ is one of the most repeated and enduring. Hundreds of articles and books have been written based on two false assumptions:

The first is that society was hierarchically organised till the invention of the Internet. This assumption ignores that – before the Internet – people used to network through schools, pubs, sports, families ….  You name it, you have it.

The second is that with the arrival of the Internet, networking would replace hierarchy as the way society organised itself. This assumption is also false. In the Internet era, society has remained hierarchical. Hierarchy is not a retrograde or bureaucratic invention, but rather a core functional principle of nature and society as was elaborated in the works of Herbert Simon, a famous cognitive scientist and Nobel prize winner. Hierarchical structures run physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds.

Even simple observations can show that hierarchies not only exist, but are even stronger on the Internet than in the traditional world (note the dominant position of Silicon Valley in the Internet industry, leading bloggers, the number of likes as indicators of social acceptability, as well as the number of followers on Twitter).

Instead of proclaiming the ‘end of hierarchy’, we need to make hierarchies more transparent, more responsible, and more effective.

Elevators in these hierarchies should stop at as many levels of society as possible, moving  people both up and down according to their merits.

17 January 2014
4 replies
  1. francisco gomes de matos
    francisco gomes de matos says:

    To Dr. Jovan Kurbalija`s
    To Dr. Jovan Kurbalija`s cogent tripartite characterization of hierarchy , I would suggest the addtion
    of dignifying. We live in the era of fast-paced,highly economical(succint)communication and this
    further challenges communicators (at diferent organizational levels)to express themselves
    dignifyingly. To know more about my view,please access
    http://www.estudenaaba.com look for Mídia,then for ABA posters and click on English.On the list
    of posters, it will be easy to access Communicative Dignity

    Francisco Gomes de Matos, a Peace linguist from Recife,Brazil
    A contributor to the DIPLO volume Language and Diplomacy.
    Author of Dignity.A Multidimensional View,published by Dignity Press,2013 http://www.dignitypress.org

    • Jovan Kurbalija
      Jovan Kurbalija says:

      Thank you Francisco for this
      Thank you Francisco for this additonal point. I will have a look at suggested materials.

  2. Hamisi R. Kisinzah
    Hamisi R. Kisinzah says:

    I strongly agree with Dr.
    I strongly agree with Dr. Jovan Kurbalija on this subject but more interesting is ” ….Instead of proclaiming the ‘end of hierarchy’, we need to make hierarchies more transparent, more responsible, and more effective..” and “Elevators in these hierarchies should stop at as many levels of society as possible, moving people both up and down according to their merits”

    Why ? …cause this is a big challenge in almost many organizations, societies to obverse ” moving people both up and down according to their merits” especially in the developing countries.

    • Jovan Kurbalija
      Jovan Kurbalija says:

      Hamisi, it is not only the
      Hamisi, it is not only the case in developing countries. Institutions can help in making ‘elevator movements’ more merit-based. We often forget that a solid institutions (rule of law, predictability, etc.) are one of the reasons why Silicon Valley is so prosperous. The first step is to recognise reality and stop academic confusion on ‘networking society’ and ‘end of hierarchy’. Next step is to make hierarchies serve better interests of society.

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