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Hierarchy NetworkINTRODUCTION

There have been quite a few articles published "out there" with this title or something similar. The general idea is that governments (i.e. the "state") are hierarchical in nature while plain "people" operate on a network basis. A hierarchy is simply a collection of layers piled up where every layer controls all the ones below it until one reaches the top which represents the supreme controller. In a government, this supreme decider is called a Prime Minister, President, King, Chairman or something like that.

The network on the other hand, is simply a collection of people who know people who know people, all trying to influence each other but without any of them having any definitive authority over anybody else. The hierarchy is vertical while the network is horizontal. These structures can be seen in the picture below.

Hierarchy Network

Current thinking

In general terms, all those articles that we mentioned before describe some sort of "class warfare" (as Communists would define it) between those two modalities. The "hierarchicals" (let's call them H's) are the all-powerful people who keep the world ticking with clockwork-like regularity. Depending which political spectrum you ask, they are either our salvation (the right) or our damnation (the theoretical left - the practical left is all for hierarchies). An identical but exactly opposing image was also created for the "networkicals" (let's call them N) who are supposed to be targets to be controlled by the H's. These people are either evil (according to the right) or good (according to the theoretical left).

The prevalent ideology going on in circles "that know" is that as hierarchies have proven over time to be superior (or at least to be able to maintain control), they will be the winners of this process. As such this "class" struggle is a no-brainer. Networks are doomed.

If you move away from the epicentre of the "people who know" and begin to approach the periphery, there seems to be a clear and decisive consensus in this matter: we don't have a clue; it is still too early to tell.

And that's pretty much it.


The wrong model

In all scientific endeavours and therefore by extension in all political thinking (no, political systems are not scientific - see for example Political Theories and Systems - What They Are And How They Work) phenomena (i.e. things that happen) are typically catalogued first and then explained away by the simplest model that can be created. This is so because even reaching this oversimplified model is hard to do. Besides, there must be something left to improve for future generations. As a consequence of this process, original models are quite rough and imperfect. They explain a few characteristics but they leave many others a mystery.

As such, this exceedingly basic model of H's versus N's is deeply flawed. It makes the assumption that governments do not network and that people do not organize themselves spontaneously in hierarchical structures. As you can plainly see, this is duck manure.

The wrong conflict

But if this model is incorrect, then assumptions based on their would-be opposing properties are also incorrect. Specifically, H's are not opposed to N's. This is correct. There is no such conflict.

The correct model

In order to move forward, we need then to imagine the correct model. It so happens that this is not too difficult. Hierarchical structures (e.g. governments) do network. They do so vertically and horizontally. They network at each layer level and they also network at through each level layer. Think of this as an army. Although it is true that the general at the top commands the troops, it is also true that the general was promoted upwards from private partially through his networking ability. In this sense, the network has a certain degree and influence on him.

Networking structures (e.g. people) do organize spontaneously in hierarchical structures. The classic example of these organizations are the "grassroots" ones who grow out of a "gathering of the minds" so to speak. A bunch of people with similar views regarding an issue came together and decided to organize themselves in such a manner as to give the more capable one the leadership. This leader commands the group, but his power is very much dependent upon the support of the network, his "power base" if you like.

If you now take a look at both structures above described you will notice that they are very similar indeed. Actually, formally speaking they are the same! What we end up is with a hybrid (or mixed) model, a Hierarchical Network, which can be seen below.

Hierarchical Networks

But does this mean that neither pure Hierarchies nor pure Networks exist? Not at all. They do, but the prevalent model is the Hierarchical Network.

If we now incorporate all this knowledge together, we obtain a much better representation of how the world operates today. This can be seen in the picture below:


The wrong conflict, again

As you can see from this picture it is almost impossible (if not impossible at all) to find out who is controlling whom from the structures alone. However, this model does indeed provide the correct answer to the question: Where is the conflict? The answer is that there is no conflict because it is not possible to reach any conclusion from the structures themselves. Which means that if there is a conflict, it is not dependent upon the structure but on something else which we have not yet determined or found.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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