Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…

Organisation versus Hierarchy

This can be a really tough one for Joe and Jane Public to get their heads around, because they are constantly told the former demands the latter, and see it is “true” every day.
Organisation refers to people knowing what they are supposed to do, and working with others to get it done. That might be everyone doing the same thing, then the next and so on. Or a partial division of labour, or swapping roles so all get to do and understand the basics, and no-one become indispensable. Organisation might be centralised (hierarchy) or decentralised & constantly shifting (anarchy).
Hierarchy refers to people being told what to do (and usually how to do it), and told when and where. Hierarchy depends on fear, dependence, insecurity and lack of self-confidence. It offers prestige and power to those higher up, who justify it as “necessary”. It is much loved by current and wannabe bosses. To get all fancy- it is the difference between the way trees propagate (arboreal) and the way say crabgrass or strawberries do (rhizomatic). Strawberry fields forever!!

A practical example: I just spent a week in a field in Derbyshire. I turned up with a tent and some money. A handful of people, with no leader, had sorted out marquees, water, toilets, food, welfare etc. etc. Most everyone who came helped when and where needed (with a little encouragement). And it worked brilliantly without bureaucracy, police or any of that nonsense. That is anarchy.
Robert Michels, early 20th century theorist, coined the Iron Law of Oligarchy- “He who says organise, says tyranny”. In response many anarchist groups try to rotate positions of authority, and skill share as much as possible.
All this is tangled up with notions of expertise, authority, competence and so on. Watch out for the second dictionary of New Speak…

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