Monday, 31 October 2011

Hierarchy is bullshit

Given the non-hierarchical nature which is so essential to the Occupy movement I thought I'd re-post this from November 2008:

Ever thought about why we need bosses? I have, and I've never been able to understand why we need them. What are bosses for other than to earn more than us and tell us what to do? But we don't need anyone to tell us what to do, and we certainly don't need them to earn more than we do!

So why do we have them? Because its a great way of maintaining control and a great way of making us accept that we are worth less than we actually are. Now I guess some of us have worked for an inspirational boss at one time or another. But for every good boss there must be a least a dozen poor ones. They tend to range from the ones who just aren't up to it to those who are careerists, desperate to climb the greasy pole, who see each job as a stepping stone to the top, and of course some are just downright bullies.

So why do we put up with them? I'm not a psychologist but it's not too difficult to see why. We are socialised into it. As children we look up to our parents - the 'grown-ups' who comfort and protect us. Then we go to school and are trained to accept the authority of another grown up - the teacher.

When we finish education we are usually starting on the bottom rung of of the ladder in a large organisation. We accept that those who've been there longer than us and have more experience and prestige. So it seems natural that we defer to them. But is it? Respect should be earned - not taken for granted.

The system works well for those at the top as we have seen recently in the banking debacle. These top bods claim they are special people. Without them businesses and organisations wouldn't be run properly - but ...er were the banks run properly? More recently we have seen Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, floundering over the Ross and Brand debacle. Do we seriously think that no one could have handled it better? I doubt it.

So why do we tolerate these people? - especially when there is plenty of evidence that we just don't need them. Lets go back to the start of the century when there was an economic crisis in Argentina. Years of corruption and privatisation lead to a run on the banks. While the rich took their money and ran, ordinary Argentinians were left in the lurch, unable to access their bank accounts. Businesses went bust, and in many cases bosses just abandoned their businesses, making the workers jobless.

But many of the jobless refused to give up - they took over the abandoned businesses and kept them going. Many are still successful today, and still owned as worker co-operatives. Not all successful co-operative businesses start in this way though. The US company W L Gore and Associates is very successful, and it doesn't have any bosses. Don't believe me? Then read this article. You'll probably know the company because it makes Gore-Tex. In fact the The company topped the UK Sunday Times "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for 4 consecutive years, 2004–2007.

The hierarchy that surrounds us is manufactured bullshit. There is nothing natural or desirable about it. It is maintained because it suits the purposes of those at the top who cream off the wealth from society and require us to to accept less as a consequence. Attacks on this system are described as sour grapes or envy - but they would be wouldn't they?

Postscript 08/11/08: I don't usually add anything to a posting but there is an interesting article on the front page of Guardian Work today by Don Tapscott about inter-generational attitudes to hierarchy that is worth reading. I searched the website but couldn't find it so I can't make a link. here is a brief quote:

"Too many organisations are still stuck in the old unproductive hierarchy, which divides worlds into the governors and the governed. Most people above the age of 40 accept this..... The goal in hierarchy is to move up, and have more people reporting to you"

Don believes that the 'net generation' have a different attitude to hierarchy - lets hope he is right.

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