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Hierarchy

Hierarchy

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A hierarchy is any ranking of objects into grades, orders, or classes of increasing dominance or inclusiveness. As a social phenomenon, hierarchy is a specific type of social organization in which members are divided by status or especially authority. Early use restricted the concept to sacred rankings of heavenly bodies (e.g., orders of angels) or ecclesiastical and religious rule. Indeed, in his master-work Economy and Society, the German sociologist Max Weber (18641920) first distinguished between political and hierocratic organizations, limiting the latter to those entities with a monopoly of psychic coercion in distributing or denying religious benefits. Contemporary usage refers to any status or authority ranking based on traditional or religious beliefs and customs, formal-legal rules, or persistent inequalities.

Although contested, many scholars believe that humans, like other primates, are hierarchical animals who innately create social rankings within groups. Less contested is that humans throughout history have formed many social hierarchies, ranging from family, tribe, and clan groupings to genders, classes, and castes, to city-states, empires, and nation-states, to bureaucratic organizations including corporations, guilds, unions, political parties, and other civic associations.

Although particular forms differ, all hierarchies are comprised of relationships of superiority-inferiority or domination-subordination. On a daily basis, each individual in a modern society is likely to be a member of several distinct hierarchies with multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. One can simultaneously be a dominant member of a family from a lower class and a union leader, subject to the laws of the state in all these roles.

As these examples suggest, hierarchy is ubiquitous in social life. No definitive enumeration of types or forms is possible. At the same time, hierarchy is not universal. Many relationships are carried out between more or less equals, including interactions within peer or friendship networks, transactions in the marketplace, and diplomatic exchanges between great powers in international politics.

Hierarchy is not only varied but dynamic, evolving in form and extent. Although the historical trajectory has not been smooth and unidirectional, hierarchy appears to have deepened in scope and expanded in range over time, and especially in the modern era. With the rise of the nation-state as the encompassing form of hierarchy in the twentieth century, and the deepening of the division of labor within and between societies, greater areas of social life are now more clearly organized by rank and authority than in the past. This trend is challenged in the twenty-first century by globalization, the Internet, and various transnational social networks, all of which carry the potential for alternative, nonhierarchical forms of social organization. Whether these developments signal a long-term change in trajectory or merely a short-term oscillation in the degree of hierarchy remains a subject of debate.

Early understandings of the origins and rules of hierarchy were often functionalist, positing that hierarchies form to solve collective problems within societies. Perhaps best known among these early approaches is Robert Michaelss iron law of oligarchy, which posited that the division of labor within organizations combines with the self-interest of organization elites to produce hierarchy even within bodies that pursue egalitarian goals ([1915] 1958). Subsequent scholars have rendered this law a contingent tendency, but the forces first identified by Michaels remain important in our understanding of hierarchy.

Contemporary theories of hierarchy can be grouped into three principal schools. Psychological theories ground the ubiquity of social hierarchy in human nature. Associated with the work of James Sidanius and his colleagues, social dominance theory is, perhaps, the most prominent psychological approach today, largely because its multilevel approach avoids many of the problems of strictly individual-level theories. Like authoritarian personality theory and other individual approaches, social dominance theory posits a social dominance orientation that, although universal, varies across the human population and expresses the value people place on hierarchically structured relationships among social groups. Social dominance orientation, in turn, interacts with context-specific institutions and ideologies to produce age, gender, and arbitrary-set hierarchies that take the form of clan, ethnic, caste, class or other socially constructed types of discrimination. Although providing a persuasive synthesis of a tendency towards hierarchy in all nonsubsistence societies, social dominance theory lacks a well-developed mechanism for explaining intra- and intersocietal differences in the degree of group-based hierarchy.

The other two main approaches to hierarchy seek to explain precisely the differences in the forms and extent of hierarchy. The contractual perspective dates most clearly from Oliver Williamsons path-breaking Markets and Hierarchies (1975). In a world of costly contracts that fail to specify obligations in all possible future states of the world, Williamson posited, self-seeking actors will tend to form hierarchies when one, but not both, of the parties to a recurring transaction possesses relationally specific assetsor assets that are worth considerably more within that relationship than in their next best use. An example would be a producer of specialized components for a particular brand of automobile. By placing the transactions under unified ownership, and subjecting them to administrative controls (dominance), the incentives of the parties to act opportunistically toward one another are greatly reduced. By internalizing transactions within a hierarchy, actors give up the information and discipline that is otherwise provided by market competition, but reduce the likelihood that they will be exploited by partners. Thus, Williamson and his many followers predict that the producer of specialized components will be subsumed within the automotive firm into a corporate hierarchy. In the absence of relationally specific assets or frequent exchanges, in contrast, actors will prefer to transact at arms length in a market. When both parties have relationally specific assets, they hold mutual hostages and can coexist effectively in long-term, bilateral, and non-hierarchical relationships. This key insight on hierarchies as solutions to the problem of incomplete contracting in the presence of relationally specific assets has been extended from firms and economic exchange to bureaucracies and other managerial hierarchies, as well as to the analysis of empires, alliances, federal states, international organizations, and a variety of other institutions.

The distributional school lacks a single defining work, but generally understands hierarchies as emerging from initial inequalities between individuals or groups and, then, reinforcing those inequalities to produce an even more highly stratified society. Like the contractual approach, this school conceives of hierarchy as largely negotiated, albeit often under duress and possibly under threat of coercion, between actors who accept a subordinate status in exchange for access to the economic surplus possessed by the would-be superior. In the big man societies of Melanesia, for example, individuals acquire status and authority by using their comparative advantage in hunting, gardening, ritual knowledge, or violence to accumulate a material surplus, which they then redistribute to needy villagers. Often pressed to appeal to the big man by unexpected downturns in fortune, the supplicants become followers or subordinates in an informal village hierarchy. Over time, or once embedded into some religious or ideological frame, these relations of inequality become accepted or normalized into legitimate rule, with big men or perhaps their sons turning into chiefs at some later date. Similar hierarchies unfolded in early monarchies and empires, on the one hand, and in modern capitalist societies, on the other.

A contractual approach understands hierarchy as constructed to prevent possible opportunism, whereas the distributional approach posits that hierarchy emerges from actual inequality and exploitation. Despite this apparent tension, the two schools are actually complementary. Within the distributional approach, subordinates are understood to be locked into hierarchies by the material benefits provided by the superior; although perhaps driven by necessity to appeal to the dominant party for assistance, the subordinates are better off than they would be otherwise, absent that aid. In turn, the benefits of reduced opportunism provide the superior with the economic surplus necessary to assist subordinates while making himself better off as well. This exchange of goods for status and authority, what Herbert Spencer (18201903) first called compulsory cooperation, provides the glue that holds social hierarchies together. Yet, to understand hierarchy as a bargain of sorts that leaves the parties to an agreement better off than they would otherwise be in an anarchic state of naturewhere life would be, as Thomas Hobbes (15881679) famously described it, short, nasty, and brutishis not to accept that inequalities of status or resources are fixed and immutable or cannot be made more equal. The history of social struggle is largely one of subordinates claiming a greater and possibly equal share of the social benefits produced by hierarchy. To the extent that hierarchy is an enduring feature of human life, social struggle will persist as well.

SEE ALSO Caste; Community Power Studies; Elites; Michels, Robert; Oligarchy, Iron Law of; Power Elite; Psychology; Social Dominance Orientation; Spencer, Herbert; Stratification

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Diehl, Michael W., ed. 2000. Hierarchies in Action: Cui Bono?. Occasional Paper 27. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University.

Lake, David A. 1996. Anarchy, Hierarchy, and the Variety of International Relations. International Organization 50 (1): 133.

Michaels, Robert. [1915] 1958. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchic Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Trans. Eden Paul and Cedar Paul. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Miller, Gary J. 1992. Managerial Dilemmas: The Political Economy of Hierarchy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sidanius, Jim, and Felicia Pratto. 1999. Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Hierarchy and Oppression. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Williamson, Oliver E. 1975. Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. New York: Free Press.

David A. Lake

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Hierarchy

Hierarchy


The word hierarchy stems from the Greek word hierarches, and early usage referred primarily to ecclesiastical structure and authority. The term is now widely used in a number of fields and generally denotes an inter-level relationship, usually conceived as a vertical layering of levels that implies higher value, power, or centralization at the top, and less of these qualities at the bottom.

History of the concept

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato has had an enormous influence on hierarchical thinking. In works such as the Republic and Phaedo, Plato argued that the world is divided into a lower, chaotic material reality, and a higher reality of forms that is the genuine source of truth, beauty, and the good. For Plato, this ontological distinction was necessarily related to epistemological and moral ones, for the realm of the forms are the source of true knowledge as well as being the ultimate good that all seek. Human beings were seen as a composite of the two worlds, the irrational world of matter and the rational world of the forms. In Plato's framework, the good person is one who shuns material things and pursues rational inquiry in accordance with one's true, nonmaterial nature.

During the Roman era, Plotinus (205270) and other neo-Platonists expanded Plato's dualism into what twentieth-century philosopher Arthur Lovejoy (18731962) called the great chain of being. According to this view, God is the most real, out of which all other things emanate. Material reality is that which is most distant from the plenitude of God and, in a sense, the least real. As a composite of the different levels of reality, human beings stand at a halfway point, both material and spiritual. Neo-Platonism profoundly influenced the development of Christian theology, particularly through the writings of Augustine of Hippo (354430), Pseudo-Dionysus (c. fifth century c.e.), and Bonaventure (12171274). In a Christian framework, angels naturally fit into a neo-Platonic framework as beings who occupied a higher level of reality. For Augustine in particular, evil could be explained as the absence of good, an irrational move from the most real (God) towards the unreal.

The rise of modern science played a significant role in the demise of hierarchical understandings of the world. Early scientific thinkers were influenced by philosophers such as William of Ockham (c. 1285c. 1347), who denied Plato's theory of forms and hierarchical ontologies. This and other factors led to an understanding of the physical world that emphasized material causes alone, a tendency that seemed vindicated by the work of Galileo Galilei (15641642) and Isaac Newton (16421727). Such materialistic views were typically reductionistic in character. Materialist reductionists inverted and then rejected the neo-Platonic hierarchy of being, claiming not only that it is the material world that is most real, it is the only reality. Such materialism not only influenced scientists such as Pierre-Simon Laplace (17491827), but also the whole trajectory of nineteenth-century philosophy.

In the twentieth century, the legitimacy of ontological and moral hierarchies was intensely debated within specific fields of philosophy and theology. Debates about ontological hierarchies focused on questions of reductionism and emergence or holism, much of which centered on the status of the mind and human person. Reductionists emphasize that the material constituents of the world are all that there is, and that higher-order realities such as the human mind and culture can ultimately be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry. Reductionists often point to the success of neo-Darwinism and the discovery of DNA as justification for their approach. Likewise, categories of mind and the human person, so reductionists argue, can best be understood in terms of the activities of the brain. In the late twentieth century, reductionism was most associated with the popular writings of Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick in biology and the thought of Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, and Patricia Churchland in the philosophy of mind.

Modern opposition to reductionism has early roots in the movement of British emergentism, typified by the work of C. D. Broad. Opponents to reductionism have frequently endorsed the category of emergence, arguing that there are higher-order levels that emerge from, but are not reducible to, the lower levels of reality. Generally speaking, emergentists do not deny the validity of the lower-level sciences, only their sufficiency for explaining higher-order phenomenon. Emergentism came to be particularly important for the defense of biology as a legitimate and separate field of inquiry from physics and chemistry, and has been vigorously supported by such prominent thinkers as biologist Ernst Mayr and philosopher Karl Popper. Emergence has also been complemented by the concept of supervenience, which provides a philosophical framework for understanding the relation of different levels of reality. Philosophers such as Jaegwon Kim have argued, however, that supervenience ultimately leads to causal reduction of higher-level to lower-level physical properties. Within the paradigm of computational complexity theory, a similar suspicion has been raised against emergence by John Holland and others.

Hierarchy in the science-religion dialogue

Science and religion scholars have tended to support emergentist positions and reject reductionist ontologies. Both the physicist and theologian Ian Barbour and the biochemist and theologian Arthur Peacocke have strongly criticized reductionist interpretations of science. Both have noted that while science employs methodological reductionism in its attempt to analyze physical reality, such practice does not entail ontological reductionism. Going a step further, Peacocke has argued that the whole of reality should be understood as a complex hierarchy that begins at the bottom with physics and chemistry, and moves towards increasing levels of complexity, moving towards living organisms, human beings, cultures, and eventually God at the very top. Peacocke's analysis has had tremendous influence, and has been developed in different ways by philosophers Nancey Murphy and Philip Clayton.

Despite this, the value of hierarchical thinking has been much questioned in broader theological circles. Feminist theologians such as Sallie McFague have criticized traditional moral hierarchies because of their tendency to oppress women. Environmental theologians and philosophers have also criticized moral hierarchies as contributors to abuse of animals and destruction of ecosystems. Because traditional moral hierarchies have been justified by reference to ontological hierarchies, these too have come under attack. Serious dialogue between these differing theological perspectives has yet to occur and represents a likely step in the science-religion dialogue.


See also Emergence; Holism; Order; Plato; Supervenience


Bibliography

ayala, francisco, and, dobzhansky, theodosius, eds. studies in the philosophy of biology: reductionism and related problems. berkeley: university of california press, 1974.

broad, c. d. the mind and its place in nature. new york: harcourt, 1929.

kim, jaegwon. supervenience and mind: selected philosophical essays. cambridge, uk: cambridge university press, 1993.

lovejoy, arthur. the great chain of being: a study of the history of an idea (1936). cambridge, mass.: harvard university press, 1970.

mcfague, sallie. models of god: theology for an ecological, nuclear age. philadelphia: fortress press, 1987.

peacocke, arthur. theology for a scientific age: being and becomingnatural, divine, and human, enlarged edition. minneapolis, minn.: fortress press, 1993.

gregory r. peterson

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hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods

hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods The grouping of individuals by a series of subdivisions or agglomerations to form a characteristic ‘family tree’ or dendrogram of groups. Alternatively, classification may be non-hierarchical, i.e. proceeding not by an organized series of progressive joinings or subdivisions, but instead achieving groupings by a series of simultaneous trial and error clusterings (successive approximation) until an optimum and stable pattern is found. A possible scheme, for example, is to select at random a number of starter individuals, equal to the number of groups required, and to which other individuals are added or from which they are removed, according to their characteristics and the classificatory philosophy used (that of seeking to minimize internal group heterogeneity, or of seeking to maximize differences between groups). The chief advantage of hierarchical over non-hierarchical methods is the clarity with which the routes to the final groupings may be followed, facilitating explanation of those groups. However, since most hierarchical classifications either dichotomize or pair at each division or join, natural clustering patterns may be distorted or poorly represented. Hierarchical classifications are also more likely to be unduly affected by irrelevant background information.

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hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods

hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods The grouping of individuals by a series of subdivisions or agglomerations to form a characteristic ‘family tree’ (dendrogram) of groups. Alternatively, classification may be non-hierarchical, i.e. proceeding not by an organized series of progressive joinings or subdivisions, but instead achieving groupings by a series of simultaneous trial-and-error clusterings (successive approximation) until an optimum and stable pattern is found. A possible scheme, for example, is to select at random a number of starter individuals, equal to the number of groups required, and to which other individuals are added or from which they are removed according to their characteristics and the classificatory philosophy used (that of seeking to minimize internal group heterogeneity, or of seeking to maximize differences between groups). The chief advantage of hierarchical over non-hierarchical methods is the clarity with which the routes to the final groupings may be followed, facilitating explanation of those groups. However, since most hierarchical classifications either dichotomize or pair at each division or join, natural clustering patterns may be distorted or poorly represented. Hierarchical classifications are also more likely to be unduly affected by irrelevant background information.

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hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods

hierarchical and non-hierarchical classification methods The grouping of individuals by a series of subdivisions or agglomerations to form a characteristic ‘family tree’ (dendrogram) of groups. Alternatively, classification may be non-hierarchical, i.e. proceeding not by an organized series of progressive joinings or subdivisions, but instead achieving groupings by a series of simultaneous trial-and-error clusterings (successive approximation) until an optimum and stable pattern is found. A possible scheme, for example, is to select at random a number of starter individuals, equal to the number of groups required, and to which other individuals are added or from which they are removed according to their characteristics and the classificatory philosophy used (that of seeking to minimize internal group heterogeneity or of seeking to maximize differences between groups). The chief advantage of hierarchical over non-hierarchical methods is the clarity with which the routes to the final groupings may be followed, facilitating explanation of those groups. However, since most hierarchical classifications either dichotomize or pair at each division or join, natural clustering patterns may be distorted or poorly represented. Hierarchical classifications are also more likely to be unduly affected by irrelevant background information.

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hierarchy

hi·er·ar·chy / ˈhī(ə)ˌrärkē/ • n. (pl. -chies) a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. ∎  (the hierarchy) the upper echelons of a hierarchical system; those in authority: the magazine was read quite widely even by some of the hierarchy. ∎  an arrangement or classification of things according to relative importance or inclusiveness: a taxonomic hierarchy of phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species. ∎  (the hierarchy) the clergy of the Catholic or Episcopal Church; the religious authorities. ∎ Theol. the traditional system of orders of angels and other heavenly beings. DERIVATIVES: hi·er·ar·chic / ˌhī(ə)ˈrärkik/ adj. hi·er·ar·chi·za·tion / ˌhī(ə)ˌrärkəˈzāshən/ n. hi·er·ar·chize / -ˌkīz/ v.

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Hierarchy

HIERARCHY

A group of people who form an ascending chain of power or authority.

Officers in a government, for example, form an escalating series of ranks or degrees of power, with each rank subject to the authority of the one on the next level above. In a majority of hierarchical arrangements, there are a larger number of people at the bottom than at the top.

Originally, the term was used to mean government by a body of priests. Currently, a hierarchy is used to denote any body of individuals arranged or classified according to capacity, authority, position, or rank.

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hierarchy

hierarchy division of angels, etc. XIV; priestly or ecclesiastical rule XVI; body of ecclesiastical rulers XVII. ME. ierarchie, gerarchie (superseded by latinized forms in XVI) — OF. ierarchie, gerarchie (mod. hiérorchie) — medL. (h)ierarchia — Gr. hierarkhíā, f. hierárkhēs steward of sacred rites, high priest, f. hierós sacred, holy + -arkhēs, -arkhos ruling, ruler; see ARCH-, -Y3.
So hierarch ecclesiastical ruler XVI; archangel XVII. — medL. — Gr. hierarchical XV.

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hierarchy

hierarchy A type of social organization in which individuals are ranked according to their status or dominance relative to other group members. This affects their behaviour in various ways, e.g. by determining their access to food or to mates. Many vertebrate animals and some invertebrates live in hierarchical social groups.

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hierarchy

hierarchy
1. A form of organization in which certain elements of a system regulate the activity of other elements.

2. A form of social organization in which individuals, or groups of individuals, possess different degrees of status, affecting feeding, mating behaviour, etc.

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hierarchy

hierarchy
1. A form of organization in which certain elements of a system regulate the activity of other elements.

2. A form of social organization in which individuals, or groups of individuals, possess different degrees of status, affecting feeding, mating behaviour, etc.

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Hierarchy

Hierarchy

a body of officials arranged in ranks; each of three groups of angels; ecclesiastics, priests, or clergy, collectively.

Examples: hierarchy of angels, 1398; of being, 1875; of clergy, 1563; of concepts, 1864; of intelligence, 1875; of priests.

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Hierarchy

Hierarchy. A body of religious rulers organized in successive ranks. In Christianity, one may speak of the hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons. For the ‘heavenly hierarchy’, see ANGEL.

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hierarchy

hierarchy A set of entities that are partially ordered; the word is frequently misused. See partial ordering.

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"hierarchy." A Dictionary of Computing. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"hierarchy." A Dictionary of Computing. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/computing/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hierarchy

hierarchy

hierarchy: see ministry and orders, holy.

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"hierarchy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hierarchy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hierarchy

"hierarchy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hierarchy

hierarchy

hierarchyackee, Bacchae, baccy, cracky, Jackie, lackey, tacky, wacky •latchkey • talcy •cranky, Frankie, hanky, hanky-panky, lanky, manky, swanky, wanky, Yankee •Askey, Pulaski •Polanski • Blavatsky • Stanislavsky •ticky-tacky •Iraqi, Kawasaki, khaki, larky, malarkey, menarche, Nagasaki, narky, parky, raki, saké, saki, sarky, souvlaki, sparky, sukiyaki, teriyaki •passkey •matriarchy, patriarchy •diarchy • oligarchy • synarchy •hierarchy •Becky, recce, techie •Elkie • Palenque •Esky, pesky •Dostoevsky, Paderewski •achy, Blakey, flaky, quaky, shaky, snaky, wakey-wakey •headachy •beaky, cheeky, cliquey, cock-a-leekie, creaky, freaky, Geikie, Kon-Tiki, Leakey, leaky, peaky, reeky, sleeky, sneaky, squeaky, streaky, Thessaloníki, tiki, tzatziki

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"hierarchy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hierarchy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hierarchy

"hierarchy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hierarchy