Category:P2P Hierarchy Theory

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Items to understand hierarchical vs non-hierarchical relations, from a 'p2p' point of view.


The Evolution of Hierarchy in the P2P Era

John Heron:

"1. There seem to be at least four degrees of cultural development, rooted in degrees of moral insight:

(1) autocratic cultures which define rights in a limited and oppressive way and there are no rights of political participation;

(2) narrow democratic cultures which practice political participation through representation, but have no or very limited participation of people in decision-making in all other realms, such as research, religion, education, industry etc.;

(3) wider democratic cultures which practice both political participation and varying degree of wider kinds of participation;

(4) commons p2p cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation of everyone in every field of human endeavor.”

2. These four degrees could be stated in terms of the relations between hierarchy, co-operation and autonomy.

(1) Hierarchy defines, controls and constrains co-operation and autonomy;

(2) Hierarchy empowers a measure of co-operation and autonomy in the political sphere only;

(3) Hierarchy empowers a measure of co-operation and autonomy in the political sphere and in varying degrees in other spheres;

(4) The sole role of hierarchy is in its spontaneous emergence in the initiation and continuous flowering of autonomy-in-co-operation in all spheres of human endeavor."


This idea that “everyone follows and everyone leads” is powerful because it captures the understanding that we are co-producers of our social realities. It is a reflection of the systemic nature of human relations: fluid, dynamic, reciprocal.

- Kathia Laszlo [1]

Three Principles of Domination, One Principle of Emancipation

""In actuality, all principles are always in play. There is no domina­tion without exploitation and organisation. But their relative importance varies with the period under consideration. Under the principle of domination, the master denies his slaves an existence which would limit his own. Under the principle of exploitation, the boss grants his workers that degree of existence which fattens and develops his own. The principle of organisation breaks individual existences down into fractions, classifying them according to degrees in each's capacity for leadership or administration. Domination is a right, exploitation a contract, and organisation an ordering of things. The tyrant dominates according to his will to power; the capitalist exploits according to the laws of profit; the organiser programmes and is programmed. The first appeals to arbitrariness, the second to justice, the third to rationality and objectivity."

- Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life [2]

According to Thorsten Wiesmann, four principles are at play [3]:

- The Principle of Domination, Characteristic of Feudal Society - The Principle of Exploitation, Characteristic of Bourgeois Society - The Principle of Organisation, Characteristic of Technocratic Society - The Principle of Sharing, Characteristic of the Interactive Society

For-profit vs for-benefit approaches in p2p-driven economies

"Each techno-economic paradigm (TEP) is based on a constellation of innovations, both technical and organizational, which are the driving force behind economic development. (...) In this neoliberal format, which became dominant after 1980 before the emergence of civic peer networks on the eve of the 21st century, the part of labor became stagnant and most of the value was streamed toward financial capital. The credit system developed into an increasingly important means to maintain the fictitious buying power of consumers and, therefore, the primary means of surplus realization through debt dependency and servicing. We argue that this value model of traditional proprietary capitalism, dominant in the installation period of the current TEP, is approaching its terminal point. Its inherent unsustainability is manifested in a twofold problem. On the one hand, industrial capitalism considers nature to be a perpetually abundant resource; that is, it is based on a false notion of material abundance in a finite world. On the other hand, the traditional, industrial version of cognitive capitalism enforces the idea that intellectual, scientific and technical exchange should be subject to strong proprietary constraints. In that way, an artificial scarcity of knowledge is created, subjecting innovation to legal restrictions and allowing for profit maximization and, hence, capital accumulation. (...) The P2P infrastructures, such as the Internet, are those infrastructures for communication, cooperation and common value creation that allow for permission-less interlinking of human cooperators and their technological aids. We argue that such infrastructures are becoming the general conditions of work, life and society. (...) „Value regimes are more or less associated with technology regimes, since the forces at play want to protect their interests through the control of technological and media platforms, which encourage certain behaviors and logics, but discourage others. The powers over technological protocols and value-driven design decisions are used to create technological platforms that match proprietary interests. Even as P2P technologies and networks are becoming ubiquitous, ostensibly similar P2P technologies have very different characteristics which lead to different models of value creation and distribution, and thus to different social and technological behaviors. In networks, human behavior can be subtly – or not so subtly – influenced by design decisions and invisible protocols created in the interest of the owners or managers of the platforms.“

- Kostakis/Bauwens in Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy ; [4]

Leadership in Non-Hierarchical Organizations

"Enspiral is no ordinary environment to have a leadership position in. We are collaboratively prototyping a system of work designed to enable people to focus their energies on what is most meaningful to them and in line with this we have a pretty un-traditional org structure. Enspiral is strictly non-hierarchical which means that leadership positions come with no authority attached. No one in the network has a right to tell anyone else what to do, so making any organisational developments requires a lot of social manoeuvring — building credibility and collective motivation behind your initiatives. While outside the core the system looks pretty stable, the closer you get to the middle the more you see that the organisation is changing and evolving every day. You can’t take a lot for granted as being fixed in place. So contextual knowledge is something that needs to be continuously updated. An added challenge to this is much of what is evolving in the organisation isn’t documented — a lot of it happens informally. Making sense of it all enough to direct our efforts intelligently takes up a lot of cognitive real estate."

- Chloe Waretini [5]


Fair doesnt mean Equal.png

Post Leadership

Management Leadership That something else better that isn't management or leadership
Attitude Compliance Humility Service
Authority Based upon title Based upon earned trust None; offers an example which may be followed or not
Questions Questions are viewed as a threat to authority Encourages questions to develop an ethical understanding Asked frequently
The Framework Procedural Relational Engaged and connected
Rules / Boundaries Based upon conformity Based upon an ethical, philosophical concept Based on respect for others
Procedures Standardized Personalized Adapted as needed
Innovation Discouraged if it challenges the status quo Provides a vision that inspires others Secondary to creativity, freedom and exploration
Submission Forced: based upon a fear Voluntarily: submitting to another's strengths to protect one's weaknesses There is no submission; exchanges are mutual and of mutual value
Motivation Extrinsic Intrinsic Not necessary
The Results Behave externally but rebel internally (or when no one is looking) Empathetic, ethical thinkers who want to do what is right Cooperative environment populated by creative and expressive individuals who see respect for and service to others as the highest good

Key Resources

Key Articles

  • The Rise of Organizational Complexity, see: Y. Bar-Yam, Complexity rising: From human beings to human civilization, a complexity profile, Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS UNESCO Publishers, Oxford, UK, 2002); also NECSI Report 1997-12-01 (1997). [6]

Key Books

  • Brown, D.E. Hierarchy, History, and Human Nature (Kentucky: Kentucky University Press, 1988)
  • Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus’ The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire (2012).

Pages in category "P2P Hierarchy Theory"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 214 total.

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