Duck! and Gather

Monolithic Hierarchy

Posted on: November 21, 2011

In my last post, I introduced the notion of “rigid, monolithic hierarchy” as a way of defining OWS (i.e. what that movement opposes). I figured I ought to spend a few words drilling down on that concept.

Accordingly, I start by pruning the term “rigid”. The phrase “rigid monolith” is redundant. All monoliths are rigid. Check out the definition of “monolithic”:

1. a : of, relating to, or resembling a monolith : hugemassive(1) : formed from a single crystal <a monolithic silicon chip> (2) : produced in or on a monolithic chip <amonolithic circuit>
2. a : cast as a single piece <a monolithic concrete wall>b : formed or composed of material without joints or seams<a monolithic floor covering>c : consisting of or constituting a single unit
3. a: constituting a massive undifferentiated and often rigid whole <a monolithic society>b: exhibiting or characterized by often rigidly fixed uniformity <monolithic party unity>

Consider three key attributes from the above definition: (1) huge; (2) uniform; and (3) rigid.

Do these describe large corporations?

I think so. First of all, large corporations are huge. Huge in number of employees, often huge in revenues, and frequently huge in political influence.

Second, it’s uniform, undifferentiated. The most “successful” corporations speak with one PR “voice”. A corporation may have tens of thousands of employees worldwide, but if the marketing/PR people are up to snuff, the public characteristics and attributes of the corporation are consistent across place and time, and uniformly positive in valence.

Third, such large corporations are rigid. This PR changes rarely if ever, even in the face of mounting contradictory evidence. Moreover, the org charts of such entities tend towards rigidity. Movement up and down the org chart is slow and characterized by vague hurdles (e.g. what exactly is “brown-nosing”?).

On the last point, it is important that these corporations are not perfectly rigid. There is enough movement within these massive org charts to create in the minds of employees the illusion of movement. This, I believe, keeps the attention of employees fixated on this illusion, and away from the depredations of the corporation.

I’m not suggesting that any one person or group of people set things up this way. I’m suggesting rather that this is a natural outcome of monolithic human hierarchies. Doesn’t matter if it’s a modern-day multinational corporation, the Catholic Church, Penn State University, or the U.S. Military.

It’s a property of human social interaction. Interesting that this natural property has America perched on a cliff, about to fall. Scary too.

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3 Responses to "Monolithic Hierarchy"

The same could be said of government.

Agreed. Certainly the U.S. Government. Think I did say that in my last post.

[…] brings me to OWS. I’ve blogged about how OWS is a reaction of the People to the monolithic hierarchies that dominate our nation, and puts lie to the notion that our nation is an efficient […]

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for the money has gone too far

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