TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Is it part of human nature to have a hierarchy?

This question was mainly inspired by my history class. We were going over some Russian Marxists, and I thought it was interesting that even a communist regime will have a leader. This brought up the question, "Is it natural for humans to have a leader?" I thought about any organization and realized they all have a decently-defined hierarchy. I also thought about our cavemen ancestors and the sort of familial hierarchy with the father as the provider of food and safety (I haven't really studied anthropology, so tell me if I'm incorrect).

Feel free to ask clarifying questions, and I am looking forward to your responses!


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Oct 15 2013: Hierarchy in my view is a man-man invention, and although we live in hierarchical societies in one for or another, that have evolved over time, I am not a fan of hierarchical systems of governance - what give one man or one woman the right to think that they are better than or more deserving than another?

    At our most basic level we are all equal - we are all conceived in the same way and we all come into this world naked in a process of labour, blood and pain ... Yet as Dave Kelly has said we are all different - some people are natural born leaders and others are more comfortable following.

    Not all of the tribal ancestors of western Europe were patriarchal, some were matriarchal. Society was also arranged very differently then - there was a time in our ancient past where every man woman and child was valued and had an active part to play in the survival of the tribe based on the innate skills and talents of the individual. Where individuals came together and worked together in co-operation for the greater good. In those days a woman could just as easily be a War-Lord as a man, it was all based and judged on skill and talent. Not all hunters were men and not all gatherers were women.

    In our current configuration of hierarchical systems particularly political; it is not always the best, brightest and most talented that lead in the moment, dependent on needs of the situation, which is most unfortunate. So I find myself looking forward to a day when we overcome hierarchies. I think open-source networks are a better way forward, but I can't see our political leaders giving up their power for a more egalitarian system.
    • thumb
      Oct 15 2013: Hi Anna

      I don't fully think hierarchy is a man-man invention. I mean you just need to look at the animal kingdom to see this is true. Everything from foxes to birds and all manner of primates have hierarchies in their social groups.

      • thumb
        Oct 15 2013: Hi Tiger
        Cool name by the way... Thank you for replying to my comment. :-)

        It may not be a fully man-made invention or perhaps hierarchical systems would be more accurately described as social intervention and methods of crowd/population control.

        I do accept that in the animal kingdom, primates and other mammals do have versions of hierarchical social organisation however I don't think that the hierarchical systems within the animal kingdom are about control. In the world of the wolf it is not always the alpha who brings down the kill, they hunt as a pack, foxes are somewhat different in so far as when they pair up the do so for life, and once the cub are old enough to fend for themselves - they are very much on their own. (There are loads of foxes where I live, and they never hang out in a pack like wolves)

        Birds on the other hand flock - the leadership of a flock of birds is not fixed, the leadership is more fluid and very temporary - once the birds are on the ground or in a tree, there is no hierarchical pattern to their behaviour. The animal kingdom is also very diverse in its species behaviours so while there is validation for the concept of hierarchical systems on the one hand, on there other there is not ... it is only with mankind that hierarchical systems are seemingly entrenched.

        As in individualist I don't like the idea that others might think they have some kind of right to lord-it over me, try to control me or dictate to me and by the same token I do not lord-it over other people.
        The best that I can do is be myself, and do the best I can to live as a free-person within the boundaries of my moral and ethical code, while at the same time playing my part to make a positive contribution to my family, community and country - no-one has to tell me what to do, as I do these things of my own free will, because they are the right thing to do. The only person I really have a right, obligation and responsibility to control is myself

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.