Hierarchy As A Tool To Destroying Community


The book Starfish and The Spider talks about the fascinating phenomenon of how the US government took control of the Apache nations. Essentially, it was a clever albeit morally corrupt strategy of destroying the communal character. 

"Here's what broke Apache society: the Americans gave the Nant'ans cattle. It was that simple. Once the Nant'ans had possession of a scarce resource - cows - their power shifted from symbolic to material. Where previously, the Nant'ans had led by example, now they could reward and punish tribe members by giving and withholding this resource. 

The cows changed everything. Once the Nant'ans gained authoritative power, they began fighting each other for seats on newly created tribal councils and started behaving more and more like would-be 'presidents of the Internet.' Tribe members began lobbying the Nant'ans for more resources and became upset if the allocations didn't work out in their favor. The power structure, once flat, became hierarchical, with power concentrated at the top. This broke down Apache society."

As we are now seeing with more organizations taking on self-organizing cultures, engaging communities are the opposite of hierarchies. In fact, as the story illuminates, your can control people best by introducing hierarchy, as the industrial model clearly demonstrated. If people engage their best strengths and passions in community, it becomes a prime imperative to design organizations accordingly.