Hierarchical Inconsistencies: A Critical Assessment of Justification

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Abstract

The existential insecurity of human beings has induced them to create protective spheres of symbols: myths, religions, values, belief systems, theories, etc. Rationality is one of the key factors contributing to the construction of civilization in technical and symbolic terms. As Hankiss (2001) has emphasized, protective spheres of symbols may collapse – thus causing a profound social crisis. Social and political transformations produced a tremendous impact at the end of the 20th century. As the result, management theories have been revised in order to deal with transition and uncertainty. Francis Fukuyama’s (2000) approach is supportive of hierarchical organization as the best solution when facing a ‘disruption’. The notion of Homo Hierarchicus has been based on, allegedly, rational presumptions. This paper contributes to the discussion regarding the hierarchy within contemporary organisation. It criticises so-called ‘natural’ and ‘rational’ necessities justifying a hierarchy. A key issue identified by the paper is the formalisation of language in claiming value-free knowledge and ‘detached’ observation as the basis for neutral rationality and aspired efficiency. This should be seriously reconsidered as abetting rather than aiding understanding of social complexity. All in all, Homo Hierarchicus appears to be misleading rather than helping symbolic sphere or construct.

Posted for comments on 13 Jun 2018, 10:22 am.

Comments (1)

  • Stuart Holland says:

    Not the End of History. A critique of Francis Fukuyama

    In this paper, Juozas Kasputis has written a forceful critique of Francis Fukuyama, and especially his The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order. He challenges Fukuyama’s case that hierarchy is needed to ‘correct’ disruptions to ordered societies and social relationships. As well as that, much as in his The End of History, Fukuyama’s approach both is teleological and tends to assume that the only rationality that in due course will prevail is that of a neoliberal global order.

    This comment supports Kasputis’ critique in several regards. It submits that Fukuyama has both under-estimated or misrepresented some of the leading theorists on whom he draws including Hobbes and Max Weber. It cites criticism of Hobbes ‘selfish hypothesis’ by Hume and Adam Smith and also the widespread neglect in ritual reference to Weber that while he represented bureaucracy and its hierarchical rationality as an ‘ideal type’ – or archetype – this was less because he idealised these than deplored them. It also seeks to reinforce Kasputis’ case by evidencing how arbitrary assumptions of ‘rationality’ within bureaucratic hierarchies can reinforce Weber’s own warning that they may defeat democracy.

    In his The Great Disruption, Fukuyama maintained that hierarchies have two main bases of support, and thus legitimation. Although it would be more appropriate to deem it ‘social’, he calls the first ‘biological’ in that human beings are born with a disposition for cooperation that leads them naturally into society. In which he could derive support from Darwin who never actually using the term ‘survival of the fittest’, rather than Spencer (Le Page, 2008), but recognised that cooperative social groups – though not only human rather than also other animals – had a better chance of survival. In his later Our Posthuman Future Fukuyama warns that advances in genetic engineering could change this which would be less a qualification of his End of History than an end of human history.

    The second basis of Fukuyama’s support for social order is human reason, and the role of rationality in generating hierarchical frameworks for social cooperation. But there are different rationalities rather than only a single ‘human reason’. The highly influential rationality of Milton Friedman that capitalism equals freedom, that the only role of governments is to maintain a constant money supply, and that the sole responsibility of enterprise is to increase its profits both overthrew Keynes’ commitment to fiscal and monetary policies to sustain full employment and ‘rationalised’ the case for cutting personal and corporate taxes on the basis of alleged ‘trickle down’. Which was to deliver the 1% society.

    The rationality of neoclassical economics and its extension of assumptions of perfect information in theories of allegedly ‘rational’ expectations and ‘efficient markets’ paved the path to the subprime crisis and the greatest financial disaster since 1929. The rationality of comparative advantage, based on Ricardo’s assumption of no capital mobility, wrongly replicated also by Samuelson from 1948 to 2004, displaced that it was foreign direct investment that drove globalisation, with gains for East Asia but losses in deindustrialisation and unemployment in the UK and US (Holland, 2015). The rationality of austerity in the EU in terms of the entirely arbitrary 3% deficit and 60% debt rules (Blyth, 2015) has defeated democracy in Greece and contributed to the Yellow Vest movement in France whose spontaneous expression does not depend on hierarchy but is committed to challenging it.

    While although Weber idealised the rationality of bureaucracy as an ideal type or archetype, he personally deplored it, recognising that its hierarchical power structures were oligarchic rather than democratic, and ‘soulless’ in their denial of individualism, lamenting its: ‘specialists without vision, sensualists without heart; this nullity that imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved’ (Weber, 1957, p. 182).

    He also claimed that ‘the big question’ was what alternative could ‘keep a proportion of mankind free from this parcelling out of the soul, from this supreme mastery of the bureaucratic way of life’ (Weber, 1957, ibid).

    In this regard he was addressing what Michels (1915) identified as a tendency to an ‘iron law of oligarchy’ in hierarchical organisations, or what Weber himself called the ‘iron cages’ within bureaucracy, with them both concluding pessimistically that this would ‘defeat democracy’, with political parties becoming hierarchical and suppressing internal dissent. Although, with the neoliberal policies espoused by Fukuyama, this also can prove dysfunctional. As with ‘New Labour’ in Britain endorsing an alleged Third Way, lauding finance rather than industry, privatising public services and increasing fees for higher education which led to its century-long base in Scotland being wiped out near overnight by the SNP. While similar Third Way policies in Gerhard Schröder’s Hartz laws encouraged longer hours for no increase in pay in leading firms provoked dissent and disillusion among trades unionists and a dramatic haemorrhaging of their traditional support for the SPD.

    Whereas the rationality of the 1930s New Deal in the US drew on Roosevelt’s authority as president but, unlike Weber’s critique of hierarchy, his administration was inspired and managed from base-up rather than top-down. Like himself, as former governor of New York, most of his advisers and state secretaries, unlike many of those of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, came not from Wall Street, or former secretaries to the Treasury, but from experience in city governments. Such as Dorothy Perkins who had realised – before Keynes’ General Theory – that public works could enhance local environments, create jobs and generate democratic consent for change such as enabled Roosevelt to gain re-election three times, prompting a Republican Congress later to rule that no president should serve more than two terms (Schlesinger, 1958).

    Fukuyama has critiqued Hobbes’ assumption that man’s natural condition is the war of ‘every man against every man’, claiming that a civil society is made orderly by ‘moral rules’. In these regards he is partially – but only partially – supported by both Hume and Adam Smith. In his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals Hume explicitly countered what he identified as Hobbes’ ‘selfish hypothesis’ as ‘contrary both to common feeling and to our most unprejudiced notions’ (Hume, 1751, p. 298). He argued that, however prominent considerations of self-interest may be, we value benevolence in others, even when this is not, and never may be, directed toward us. In this regard he influenced Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and the central role within it of his concept of sympathy, in claiming that ‘benevolence’ was a manifestation of ‘natural’ or ‘social sympathy’. But his grounds for this were not a claim to ‘natural rights’ such a made by Rousseau (1762) nor Fukuyama’s claim for moral ‘rules’. Rather, he based it on a ‘feeling for humanity’ and valuing it in others.

    Hume and Smith also observed that it was not due to the rule of law, or hierarchy, that British society, trade and industry was flourishing in the 18th century in an unprecedented manner. Markets were working well because of trust, and not only in political or legal institutions. Smith (1759, 1776) realised that trust, as in signifying consent to a purchase at an auction by a gesture, could avoid incurring costs from written contracts long before ‘transaction cost theory’ surfaced two hundred years later (Coase 1978).

    However, Hume and Smith both stressed that morality is not derived from reason, as Fukuyama claims, – rather than from dispositions formed tacitly from life experience. Which of course concerned Kant, and was one of the main reasons why Hume ‘woke him from his slumbers’. (Kant, 1781, 1783). But which both Hume and Smith drew not from the moral ‘rules’ as claimed by Fukuyama but from norms that evolved in British society after the political settlement of 1688.

    Thus Hobbes had claimed that ‘men have no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deal of grief, in keeping company, where there is no power able to overawe them all’ (Hobbes, 1651, Bk. 1, p. 81) and that society would be ungovernable unless it had a single undisputed hegemon. He was influenced in this by the English Civil War of the 1640s when, at the time, rather than even being in the UK, he was in France advising the Crown Prince who, on the restoration of the monarchy would become Charles II. While the same Hobbesian principle of an undisputed hegemon also was assumed by James II in seeking to restore rule by Divine Right. Yet 1688, the access to the throne by William of Orange and the Act of Settlement of 1701 meant reversion to the principle on which Henry VIII had drawn in nationalising the Catholic Church – that the Crown governed in and through parliament and that it was parliament rather than an individual hegemon that was sovereign (Plumb, 1950).

    Which relates also to the difference between rules and norms and to issues of legitimation in the sense of whether a rule is deemed sufficiently just to gain consent from most members of a society rather than only by a hierarchical elite. Fukuyama submits that without legislation in the 1960s ‘popular norms on race’ in the US might not have changed. Yet, while this was a major achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ programme, it has not assured either anti-racism or gender equality in the US. While Fukuyama’s claim that ‘hierarchy is necessary to correct the defects and limitations of spontaneous disorder’ can be entirely wrong.

    As in the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany in 1933, its destruction of democratic institutions and of human rights. Or, since the Munroe Doctrine of 1823, the assumption of successive – though not all – US administrations that they have the right to make Central American safe for the United Fruit Company, fabricate myths about some of the poorest countries within it such as Nicaragua planning a Soviet inspired assault on the American homeland (Holland & Anderson, 1984) and destabilising the Allende government and endorsing torture or death of democrats in Chile. Or John Bolton’s current claim as Donald Trump’s national security adviser that Venezuela, Cuba and – again – Nicaragua represent a ‘troika of tyranny’ (vox.com,2018) while seeking to overthrow Maduro to predate on Venezuela’s oil (Koener, 2019), after having done the same in destabilising Iraq and Libya in a manner which encouraged violence rather than democracy as an outcome, as in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and the rise of ISIS throughout the Middle East.

    Which multiply challenges Fukuyama’s claim to an end of history rather than that, too often tragically, it may repeat itself. Yet which may be countered even in a US now subject to the ‘America First’ claims of Trump and his ongoing pretension to stem immigration from a Central America that the US has destabilised for decades. Such as by Bernie Sanders, and leading Democrats in Congress, advocating with popular resonance that the US should recover some of the main commitments of Roosevelt’s New Deal including reinforcing employment rights, restoring effective taxation of both wealth and corporate incomes and, also, a Green New Deal (Sanders, 2019; Cassidy, 2019).

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