Is hierarchy the enemy of co-operation?

Many people treat hierarchical authority as something as natural as breathing and deride those who dream and practise ways of living and doing business ‘sans’ hierarchy. I am one of those dreamers and during a life spent avoiding and undermining hierarchies, I’ve had many ‘yeah, yeah, pigs might fly’ encounters. But minimal hierarchy in my working life has been my reality in Suma, the big worker co-operative. It is the perceived ‘normal’ that looks strange to me. Why would you dehumanise yourself to fit into a hierarchy?

So what is this hierarchy thing? It’s a type of social organising in which certain groups of people have acquired, by various means, the authority to control the behaviour of other groups and have the power to enforce obedience to their will.

Hierarchical authority can range from tyrannies backed up by the bullet and gulag, to the far subtler coercion of a modern business culture, trumpeting employee wellbeing and engagement. No matter how benevolent, the employer still has the ultimate job sanction: dismissal. As one worker in such a business was said to remark: “My boss used to demand my body and brain, now they want my soul as well”.

Read the rest at Co-operative News


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