Jan 24·edited Jan 24Author

Wow! One little word, inherent, set off a lively discussion . I should have been clearer that I think civilization as it is is inherently hierarchical, but that does not mean alternative forms are not possible, or that the centralized pathway was the necessary outcome, as the Graeber and Faber work underscore. So I respect and hope that a more decentralized and democratic order can develop, and indeed this is a lot of why I write The Raven. I might call it post-civilization. In this vast world though, I think there is some necessary hierarchy due to the complexity of systems and the power of technologies. What do we do with nuclear weapons, for example. We should get rid of them. But even the regime to make sure nobody makes them again is going to need some central authority. I think as with most of life this is a matter of balance. How to move toward a more decentralized and democratic order in economies, societies and politics while we at the same time challenge illegitimate authorities using their power for self-serving and destructive ends. I also do think that organized societies do inherently hold a call to authority, as common rules of the road. These authorities can be democratic and consensual, and the more they are the better.

Expand full comment

"Civilization is inherently hierarchical, and has been since the start something like 5,000 years ago. So there is a constant call to authority, and in organized societies that is inevitable."

Yes, civilization is, and always has been, hierarchically organized / structured. But you seem to imply (?) a relation between hierarchy and authority here -- and between these two and 'order'. You fall short of being clear and explicit about this relation. But you seem to be saying that the sort of hierarchy found in civilizations of every sort is necessary to have an "organized" society. If so, I think this isn't so. I would argue that societies can organize themselves (and sometimes have done so) into highly organized but also highly non-hierarchical forms. In this context, I'd also argue that authority need not be authoritarian -- or hierarchical.

We who grew up in the W.I.E.R.D. world (see: https://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2010/10/western-educated-industrialized-rich-and-democratic/181667/ ) have all of our lives been embedded in a pretty highly hierarchical and authoritarian arrangement (ordering) of society and culture, so most of us are almost literally blind to other possible (and existing) modes of organizing our societies. But societies not organized in this hierarchical / authoritarian way have existed, still exist, and are in fact very much 'organized.'

Apart from this, I like your article so far! But the quoted statement stopped me in my tracks, because it seemed to deny that people like myself are possible. And here I am, dammit!

Expand full comment

Wonderful article Patrick! Your thoughts on institutions remind me of the Chomsky quote where he advocated the dismantling of illegitimate hierarchies. I also agree completely with your notion that future generations are not being considered in our decision-making processes. Which is akin to suicide...Last point-the belief that civilization has always been hierarchical since its beginning is a common misconception. Many of the people involved in constructing Mesopotamian cities were from pure democracies, and governed their cities as such. This gives us reason to hope-because if these earl city-dwellers were able to live in an egalitarian society then we should, too. Read the Davids', Graeber and Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything for more.

Expand full comment