Do without hierarchy?

Abstract: The etymology of ‘hierarchy’, the sacred order, remains relevant: there are always laws to which one must submit, if only the natural, new sacraments. I show that the collapse of hierarchies is natural, too, but that this disappearance is disastrous. It is not the hierarchical principle that poses the problem but its dysfunctions, its exclusions. The hierarchy should be elongated and not compressed as it extends to a growing population, so as to remain inclusive and easily owned.

A little history

Historically the term ‘hierarchy’ has a transcendental character. Hier arkhēs in Greek means “sacred rule”. In early Christianity it refers to “the order of heavenly beings”. Hierarchy designates the inevitability of divine government, the rules to which one can only submit, because they are superior to the human.

The hierarchy was installed from a power that we did not understand, from invisible forces of which the priests made themselves the representatives. Alongside this clerical authority has settled a more earthly force, that of warriors and conquerors. Gradually, knowledge competed with and replaced clerical power, until it was pushed back in places of worship. Likewise, brute force has been replaced by economy in human exchanges. It is in fact a multitude of hierarchies that have settled in human society.

But has the meaning of ‘hierarchy’ really changed, basically? Whether it is celestial dictates or natural laws, hierarchy is submission to an order governing the world, immeasurable, crushing for the self. God has become Nature, after Spinoza, but the opacity of the fundamental forces remains total. Science traces a chain of consequences, says nothing about the origin. Why do natural laws have this form? Why does mathematics behave this way and not otherwise? Knowledge is the appropriation of a mystery at the same time as its attempt to explain. To know is to construct in oneself one’s own hierarchy, a hierarchy of ‘how’ which removes the basic and nagging question of ‘why’.

An eternal principle?

How to interpret the perpetuation and omnipresence of hierarchy? Has it been tattooed by culture in our societies to the point that it is no longer possible to get rid of it? Or is it part of human nature? In other words, is it teleological, the legacy of an ancient cultural will, or ontological, naturally reproduced by each new generation?

The teleological or top-down hypothesis: The hierarchy is maintained on three institutional pillars, regulatory, normative and cognitive, conceptualized by Scott (2014). Regulation is the set of administrative rules and rituals. The normative is the force of habit taught in schools and other collective activities. The cognitive is the internalization of the hierarchy when one does not conceive of alternatives.

The ontological or bottom-up hypothesis: Hierarchy is the spontaneous organization of the intentions of a crowd of humans with ephemeral lives. Assuming that this construction is purely linked to social interactions (Giddens 1979), it lends itself more easily to contestation and reform. Today the justifications of the hierarchy are closely examined. Dysfunctions make it a source of inequality and inefficiency. Traditional hierarchies are being shaken and threatened.

Let’s go to the double look

Neither hypothesis is superior to the other. They describe, from two different directions, the same thing: an interplay between the stronghold of customs and the swell of social relations that wear them down. The current contestation of the hierarchy comes both from a new egalitarian ideal (top-down cause) and from the change in interactive rules with the irruption of networks (bottom-up cause). The principle of equality is indeed an ideal and not a natural principle. Humans see and want to be different from each other, which explains the failure of communist policies, when they wanted to achieve such an ideal without taking into account ontology. Interactive rules are indeed a bottom-up cause: they establish a metastable organization, which changes with individual mentalities.

Some forces are naturally bottom-up, such as liberal economics. Everyone appreciates their wealth and undertakes exchanges. A deregulated economy produces contrasts that are all the more marked as the population and the number of exchanges increase. Politics is a downward force. It retro-controls the excesses of economic self-organization, with the help of higher ideals such as general solidarity and the right to determine one’s own destiny. Our social life is an alternative engine, cycle of escapes and return of rules.

Advantages and disadvantages of hierarchy…

…are the subject of countless debates and works that I will not detail here. The benefits point to organizational efficiency. The more complex society becomes, the more independent decision-making levels emerge and the hierarchy is content to follow this pyramid. The complex dominates the simple, in a pyramid of intelligence that settles in each discipline. De-hierarchization experiences work within teams exercising the same professional role, but hierarchical independence remains necessary when the paradigm changes, for example when it is necessary to make a profit and no longer just create an innovative product.

The disadvantages of hierarchy are professional and social. Two professional complaints: the lack of flexibility in the face of market changes, and the inertia of employees whose careers are traced by the company, rather than self-entreprise. Social reproaches: the hierarchy encourages inequalities and denies the lower echelons the means to realize themselves more fully. The distribution of income is decided in autarky by the top, which accentuates the differences.

Advantages established and disadvantages observed

Let us immediately note that the advantages and disadvantages of the hierarchy are not themselves situated on the same plane. The advantages make the hierarchy an essential structure for any human organization, a framework without which society could not develop. While the downsides point to the dysfunctions of hierarchy, mistakes that are inevitable when it’s fallible humans applying their models to a necessary structure.

Upward and downward looks showing us very different things about the hierarchy, let’s take a moment to detail them.

Upward look

The birth of the hierarchy is informal. It starts with recognizing a particular quality in crafting things: talent. Talent is carried by an individual, either through an object and the one who knows how to handle it skillfully, or through a successful organizational concept. It may seem strange that an object can be considered “talented”, because we do not attribute an intention to it. We rather say that it is “effective”. But the beginning of the intention is not clearly established between living and non-living. It seems useful to establish a hierarchy of objects according to their instrumental effectiveness, and it also helps us to understand the hierarchy of individuals, which is based on the talent of each in a defined task. The ascending hierarchy is always contextual. This is an important first observation.

The second observation is the inevitability of hierarchy. It is based ontologically on our genetic differences but also acquired: the time of a life is limited and even used at best it does not allow to acquire and refine all the skills. We are necessarily surrounded by people who are better than us in certain tasks of collective interest. Hierarchy is natural as a structure for organizing differences.

What if I’m the expert?

The inevitability of hierarchy, heavy when it evokes the dominant elite, is easier to accept by placing oneself in the position of expert. We don’t appreciate seeing a “dummy” explain to us something that we know much better than him. We support it kindly if the needy is hierarchically inferior, more difficult if he is at the same level and not at all if he has a superior position. A child who talks nonsense is fun and even touching… because he hasn’t really set foot on the social ladder yet. Would we put up with him if he was our boss?

When egalitarian ideals begin to erase hierarchies that are not very visible but natural, tensions appear, such as the problem of child-kings, or the difference in motivation for the task in professional teams. The abolition of hierarchies causes as many conflicts as hierarchies that are too rigid. Or more precisely, the neglect of natural (ontological) hierarchies does as much damage as hierarchies based on a false idea of the self (teleological).

Downward look

Are we responsible for our genetic capital and the social environment in which we are born? No, obviously we have to deal with it, individually, which does not prevent us from thinking about collective means of reducing the effects of these inequalities. But here it is necessary to make the difference between ‘thinking for oneself’ and ‘for all’. The immense procession of solidarity claims aims for a benefit for oneself rather than an improvement in the general lot of humanity. In fact, requests for solidarity from the haves generally seem more genuine than those from the poor. It takes a satisfied individuality for our collectivizing part to express itself in relative independence.

The common ideal is the agglomerate of these collectivizing parts. It is the shared concept of what is best ‘for all’, not ‘for oneself’. What others and institutions can do in our favor is part of ‘for oneself’ and not ‘for all’. We are never aware enough of this, especially when we are stuck in personal difficulties. Only saints are not tempted to transfer the reasons to others.

Programmed by the show

Not responsible for our genetics, nor are we responsible for the desires injected into us by the society of entertainment. Wanting to realize one’s desires is a proprietary, vital, universal drive. The form taken by these desires is much less so. Most are mimetic. We learn our social tastes through identification with other people. Even rebellion, in the form it will take, is learned from other rebels.

Where does our responsibility lie in this case? Under the light of genetic imperatives and acquired mimicry, it seems to vanish completely. Some thinkers denigrate us for free will, which strongly impacts the discussion on hierarchy. Whether born or acquired, there would be little way to upset our social position.

Fortunately, no one feels so programmed. On the contrary, life is an impression of constant progress in potential freedom, if not realized. We are continually incorporating new criteria into this judgment. Freedom is not necessarily increased but we improve the definition of what it can be. To tell the truth, it is not the egalitarian principle that has been reinforced today in society but the libertarian principle, and the libertarian comes into critical conflict with equality, which requires submission to a collective norm.

The ideal on the frontispiece, not in the street

Like solidarity, equality is a distorted principle in our minds because it is equated with the “right of everyone to do as they wish”. This makes it an individualist and not a collectivist principle. Our congeners are erased. But they too want to do “as they see fit”. Problems will arise. This generalized fallacy of the principles of liberty-equality-solidarity which are at the frontispiece of our democracies must change the way in which we conceive of social relations. This is why I use the T<>D principle, abundantly described on this blog, which makes it possible to understand any relationship as a conflict between ours soliTary and soliDary parts. We will see later how this principle makes it possible to resolve the difficulties posed by the hierarchy.

But first we will see how the collapse of hierarchies paradoxically prevents the popular base from realizing its desires. We will also see that the hierarchy naturally dilutes and collapses as the population increases, except to be fleshed out and maintained by the creation of new social circles and therefore additional decision-making levels.

A paradox: isolated by the collapse of the hierarchy

Intolerance of the hierarchy has resulted in the desire of citizens to judge and directly sanction their elites. The compression of the hierarchy is caricatural in the presidential election by universal suffrage. The nation’s highest figure is subject directly to the widest possible people’s tribunal. Paradoxically, instead of bringing the decisions taken at this level closer to the people, the de-hierarchization further isolates the supreme policy. Indeed the president must answer to a crowd of 300 million humans… that is to say, to no one. No one whose opinion really matters. The crowd is a mixture of individuals more or less appreciable, useful, independent, relevant in their judgment. In other words, it has no value in itself because it contains all values, positive and negative. The crowd is made of humans but is not human per se.

Ten or a hundred million

To be convinced of this, imagine yourself in the situation of having to account for a difficult choice with ten people you know intimately, or a hundred million strangers. What judgment are you really concerned about? I declare the one who answers “the hundred million” more technocratic and less human than the one who answers “the ten”. We do not function as an atom among myriads of similars. Some people matter more than others. Their judgment has authority for us, because they know all of our facets. The president is human too, let’s not denigrate this quality. When he thinks of the crowd he is faced with a lurking, crude, unpredictable monster, without memory or recognition. The monster is renowned for its moods and rumors rather than its savvy. It worries but its verdict has less weight than that of our peers.

Forced to lie

Hence the paradox: subjecting a president to popular judgment tends to isolate him in his decisions rather than making him sensitive to public opinion, and when he is sensitive to it it is under duress, the knife of a election under the throat. A president knows that his role is to make a truly collective and predictive policy, and not to follow the excitement of an impressionable and sheepish crowd. He uses jargon extensively and feels no guilt about it. The only way to keep the cyclothymic monster on a leash. A chosen one who no longer benefits from hierarchical protection lies to survive. Satisfying a large audience requires lying. The worst thing then becomes to believe one’s own lies.

The failure of populism

Bringing the desire of the people closer to the top of the hierarchy, or crushing it, is called populism. History has already experimented with the formula many times. Systematic disasters. The examples persist today. South America vegetated for a century in an economic slump because its nations put populists in power. Leaders who have honestly wanted to satisfy popular aspirations are those who have created the most misery in the streets, erasing hierarchies that are certainly open to criticism but preferable to anarchy. Southeast Asia, by contrast, has retained its fabric of formal and informal institutions. It is now rich in economic dragons.

The hierarchy crumbles under its own lightness

Without maintenance, the hierarchy collapses spontaneously. When it seems cumbersome, it is not because of the multiplicity of hierarchical levels but on the contrary of their small number, poorly adapted to the size and complexity of the organization managed. Decisions appear too concentrated, arbitrary, poorly personalized.

The flattening of a hierarchy occurs spontaneously simply because of the increase in population. If the hierarchy does not gain any additional levels, the base stretches and the pyramid seems to flatten. But above all, hierarchical power, still clear at higher levels because decision-makers remain few in number, is completely erased at the base. When tens of millions of people share a level, the hierarchy no longer has any meaning in that level. Disappearance of its organizational power.

Forced egalitarianism

People no longer differentiate themselves from each other. Egalitarianism becomes obvious whereas if we take these people two by two, it is nonsense. The very nature of humans, which is to stand out, is denigrated. Is it any surprise that individuality rebels? No. The erasure of hierarchical power exacerbates the desire not to be like the others. How can we be surprised, then, at the trend towards contemporary ultra-individualism? The hierarchy is dissolving in broadening its base. The anonymization of citizens in this de-hierarchical society leads to hyper-recognition of the self.

The current revolt against the hierarchy is a revolt against its inaccessible vestiges. The levels have become so spaced out that it becomes very difficult to change them. The transclasses exist but their publicized journeys truncate the reality of countless lives stuck in a gigantic middle class that is not so much downgraded but above all non-classifying. Impossible to pinpoint exactly. I’m in trouble? But how compared to others? How do I know if my mess is sinking or if, on the contrary, my prospects are not so bad, compared to the average. No hierarchy informs me. I am one among millions.

Cut the bars?

Irony of my title: the hierarchy seems heavy to us but actually collapses under its own lightness. Its structure is insufficiently fleshed out to support the incredible mass of individuals that the integrated modern society has become. Food technology has nimblely increased our numbers while politics, much less sure, is outdated, lagging behind in adapting the social structure to networks, migratory movements and growing wealth gaps.

The bars of hierarchy appear rigid and awkward because they are archaic, but above all because they are the last that separates us from anarchy and its fallacious promises of free will. Attention ! If we section them, it must be to make the hierarchy finer and more transparent, to include ourselves in it and not make it disappear.

Calculate your aversion to hierarchy

How does the T<>D principle, discussed earlier, help to understand hierarchy? We will see that it allows us to calculate almost mathematically the degree of tolerance or aversion we have for the somewhat totalitarian constraint represented by the hierarchy.

In any action involving oneself and others, we have the choice between an entirely personal decision and one dictated by social conscience. In the language T<>D the decision belongs either to the T of the soliTary, or to the D of the soliDary. Both are of course not impervious. The individual solutions were learned through contact with others and gradually “sedimented” into the identity. The T is an iteration of the D and continues to evolve. It can experience an original evolution and become a new reference for the D. D is also a ‘sedimentation’ of the best solutions found by T(s). Let’s get out of the T<>D language: individual geniuses transform our social conscience, and this conscience in turn influences the behavior of others.

Identify by TD setting

The TD setting points strongly to the T for geniuses and other hyper-individualists, to the D for those confident in the collective wisdom. This adjustment is essential in our attitude towards the hierarchy during current affairs. If it points to T, it means that I consider my personal solution more effective than the collective one proposed. In return for this efficiency, I accept nothing but a high hierarchical position. I symbolize what an improved collective should be. So the others cannot impose their opinion on me, whatever their number and their consensus. I rate them as inferior in efficiency. Which demonstrates that hierarchy is always inherently present in every individual mind, with the self at the top.

This strong point to the T works if it is dubbed by the D. It takes broad agreement among the other T(s) of the same skill to confirm the validity of my personal solution. My T then merges with the D and there is no conflict. Side effect: I climbed in the hierarchy. My competence is better recognized. I progress towards the narrow top of the pyramid.

If the D does not dub my solution, I remain soliTary. If I persist in wanting to use this personal solution, I create a conflict with the D, who does not approve. If, on the contrary, I return to the consensual solution, the conflict is extinguished. My T merges with the D but I did not climb in the hierarchy, even failure made me go down.

A TD setting modulated by social circles

I deliberately simplify this description which is in reality much more complex, because the D is a succession of social circles and not all of humanity. Each context awakens a particular social circle which enacts consensus and rules. Each of us thus fits into local hierarchies; the larger the circle, the more general the pyramid becomes. Nevertheless, the independence of the circles means that a great business leader may have a less favorable domestic hierarchy…

The TD setting allows all individual fates to be traced. Those who remain soliTary stumble in the hierarchy, refusing to blend into the D they have failed to modify. They see the hierarchy with a very bad eye, as incapable of recognition. Others return to the D and wait, refine their ideas, present them to more welcoming organizations. It is usually soliDary and not soliTary effort that achieves success. Moreover, the inventors of genius rarely derive the full benefit from their discoveries. It is more supportive communicators around them who benefit, to the point of justifying Stigler’s ironic “law” of eponymy: “A scientific discovery never bears the name of its author”.

How to build a non-totalitarian Whole?

I spoke above of the ‘totalitarian’ constraint of the hierarchy. The totality is the Whole which imposes itself on its parts. Why do the parts eventually seek to reject it? Because they do not feel represented by it. We have here the antagonistic version of the whole/parts relation which has given its pejorative meaning to the term ‘totalitarian’. But there is a more cooperative version, where the parts understand that the Whole acts for the common good of the parts. We must therefore look closely at what “totalitarian” designates.

Is this an individual who has taken power to impose himself on others and exploit them, the classic ‘despot’? The term ‘totalitarian’ is not really suitable, because he is a part that controls others by force and not a manager of the Whole. Is he a representative elected by a majority of the parties, the classic ‘democratic president’? He is potentially a manager of the collective interest, but his results still need to be confirmed. The desire for presidential office is not necessarily that of being the best totality possible. Many additional intentions parasitize the human mind. The parties only find out afterwards if the character corresponds to the function.

How to train good decision makers

No good representative of the totality without training and conviction of the necessity of the task. However, democracies do not really have a school dedicated to this function. It would seem too elitist or even hereditary, with access reserved for a small number of families. The collapse of hierarchies that marks democracies leads to a loss of specialization among decision-makers. They are supposed to be able to lead a multinational company, a government, or a humanitarian organization. Disadvantage: The ethical paradigms of these functions differ profoundly, and it is difficult to keep them separate in the minds of future leaders.

This disadvantage of de-hierarchical democracies is found to be an advantage in highly hierarchical oligarchies. In Tibet for example, traditionally ruled by a religious oligarchy, the Dali-Lama is chosen very early for his function. Empathy, intelligence and perspicacity are identified in a child who is still very young, and a rigorous ethics of his function is taught to him. He becomes the perfect representative of the Tibetan Totality, and is thus very little challenged.

Identical conclusions from West to East

Plato and Confucius are the two great thinkers of politics in antiquity. They have arrived, in the West and in the East, at the same conclusions. The hierarchy is inescapable and its top must be made impervious to the vicissitudes of life, in order to devote oneself exclusively to the purest collective ideals. For Plato the leaders must not possess anything, cannot transmit any material goods. The Platonic and Confucian hierarchy is a hierarchy of morals.

It thus approaches the religious hierarchy, where the best of humans is the one who comes closest to God and his word. But we see where it leads: to a complete abstraction from earthly contingencies. Inconvenient leak if the leader’s job is to manage these contingencies. The political summit differs in this from the religious summit: it is a question of knowing perfectly the material constraints, at best having lived them, but not being directly subjected to them.

Transparency in democracy

The work of transparency undertaken by democracies on its elected officials has advantages and disadvantages. Declaring their heritage, letting the media go over the smallest details of their past life and their psychological profile… only brings to light the faults of the candidates without anything being able to do about it. The ideal chosen one does not exist. His unconscious was built without reference to the presidential function. Slippages are always possible.

The best candidates are those who grew up in turbulent times. Plato and Confucius were born in times of great political instability. Incessant conflict allows thinkers to accumulate a wealth of observations about society and prompts them to devise more comprehensive solutions. Political intelligence is a degree of complexity proportional to that of the human difficulties encountered. Expect nothing from a politician born in a conservative world, and everything from those who have observed revolutions without participating in them.

Politics lacks predictive models

Corollary: periods of rapid social change, such as the one we are experiencing, are managed by politicians who are always a little too conservative, who could not anticipate them. They reveal a new generation of chosen ones, this time more adapted to the new complexity.

If the flattening of hierarchies observed in modern democracies has the advantage of making elected officials more sensitive to the wishes of their electors, it has the major disadvantage of preventing them from emancipating themselves from them in order to manage them collectively. Populism is electing a gang leader who directly represents the most summary interests of his cronies. This works tribe-wide but not planet-wide. The breakdown of hierarchies leads to the breakdown of the social fabric and mechanically has the opposite effect of that sought in democracy: the increase in general well-being.

How to effectively re-prioritize democracy?

We have seen that the contestation of hierarchies is above all that of their dysfunctions, rather than of the principle itself. Convinced anarchists, loyal to Proudhon, are only a small clan locked in a fundamental vice that I described in a previous post. Most protesters are angry with the hierarchy as it appears today, and the inequalities it seems to protect.

This view is certainly wrong. To be convinced of this, it suffices to move away a little from the conspiracy theorists and their Illuminati, to take an interest in mathematics. In a free trade economy, the more the number of participants increases, the more their wealth gaps increase. What says it is a very simple mathematical model taking into account the respective interest of the actors of each exchange. Each individual is assumed to be entirely independent in their choices and not subject to any pressure from the wealthiest. This is the ideal of free trade, which of course does not reflect reality but which anarchists in particular would like to achieve.

The regulation of a mathematically iniquitous free trade

Mechanically, the more the market expands, the more the spreads increase. In a market that has become global, the model indicates that the ultra-rich should be even richer, and the gaps in general much larger than they are today. Why isn’t it? Because there is a political regulation of the economy. Even in the most liberal countries there is a social policy that tends to reduce the gaps. Politicians are working on it in scattered order, old Europe more concerned than the less historical American nation and than the young Asian economies, less concerned with uniting their populations in a still fresh boom. Nevertheless, all governments tend to reduce a social divide that would be much greater if trade were entirely free, within a hypothetical world anarchy.

The top-down ideal of morality interferes with the bottom-up natural morality

Hierarchy is therefore strictly essential to a tight and united social fabric. It is not its principle that must be challenged but the way in which it works. It is not really morality, as desired by Plato and Confucius, which must permeate it. Morality is the symptom of a good ascending hierarchical functioning. It is not inherent in the human essence and it would be naïve to make it an organizing principle. Hence the obvious failure of Plato in politics, and a little more relative of Confucius. Their ideals have always appealed in the upper echelons, sheltered from the contingencies of the people. But morality is difficult to make swallow to the one who seeks to satisfy basic needs, except to push it down with blows of a truncheon. So let’s put morality aside, just wishing that everyone would eventually show the symptoms, through an appropriate hierarchy.

In this line, the two principles which must found the hierarchy are permeability and retro-control.


There are two fundamentally different ways of viewing the hierarchical principle: either as a delineation of tasks or as their focal point. In the first way, the independence is almost total; on either side of the boundary, the person responsible changes. In the second way independence is relative; the task is carried out in close relation with the above and underlying levels of the hierarchy. Independence lies only in the heart of the task and not in its motivations. It responds to a complex organization and is never completely emancipated from it.

The delimitation leads to a sealing of the hierarchical levels. Entirely a baron in his field, the manager of a delimited task reports on the results but not on the manner. Sometimes advantageous if the way is of an original efficiency. Much more often disastrous because the manner is not coordinated with the rest of the organizational structure.

The Harms of Sealing Are Buried in Tradition

Impermeability is also responsible for the feeling of injustice in a meritocratic organization. The manager is protected by the delimitation of tasks. Without a possible adjacent look, it is more difficult to replace him with a more deserving one. It is from the top that the waltz of appointments is decreed. The higher you are, the more you fear falling. An impervious hierarchy tends to remain wisely installed in its status quo.

As an example of an impermeable hierarchy, we can cite the Indian castes, which have long been castrating for the society of this country, versus the permeable hierarchy which has allowed the unprecedented growth of the American economy. Things are easing in India, but it is also the American de-hierarchy that brings the performance of the two countries closer together. India makes its hierarchy more porous while the USA discredits it. Each would benefit from examining the errors of the other to continue their impulse.


Permeability is the main condition for good hierarchical functioning. But how to deal with class movements? This is the role of the second principle: retrocontrol. The evaluation of a task cannot be carried out within the organizational level. There is a conflict of interest, since this level exercises the same role and is in competition to access the higher level. The simple fact of being an evaluator, within a team, determines a higher level. If the evaluation is cooperative, by voting, then the whole formed by the team becomes the higher level, and this “whole” is subject to judgment by other bodies. In all cases, the hierarchy intervenes in the retro-control.

The evaluation of a task generally comes from the levels that benefit from it, i.e. the underlying ones in the organization. The only exception concerns tasks that would be entirely internal at the level at which they are carried out. But they are fewer in number than we imagine and often judged as such because of the contemporary de-hierarchization, rather than for their real independence.

Since independent tasks are difficult to retro-control, they are a source of dysfunction in the general organization. An effective hierarchy has an interest this time in delimiting them very rigorously, to prevent them from encroaching on the coordinated tasks. They are done outside community work time or are outsourced to self-employed workers.

Morality is a binding force, not management

For all other tasks, the higher organization is responsible for the evaluation. It does not refer to any particular character. An evaluation committee can recruit anyone with the knowledge and concern for the interests of the higher level. This competence must replace an absolute ideal of morality. An evaluation is ethical, at the hierarchical level, when the operating rules of the organizational level are correctly taken into account. The rules are rude and devoid of empathy when dealing with modes of organization. But nothing prevents reintroducing compassion as an elementary rule, at the appropriate level, that is to say before the application of decisions on people. It is even an imperative. Morality is one of the essential rules in inter-human relations, but not in relations with management instruments, which are often mathematical objects totally devoid of a soul.

By precisely defining the task of the evaluator, it is not necessary that the evaluation takes place within the hierarchy. It is even better to make it independent, despite the additional costs. It thus frees itself from common chair games in institutions and companies. This also makes possible an evaluation up to the top of the hierarchy. It is not necessary to exercise the function but it is necessary to have a thorough knowledge of it. It therefore seems relevant to have the presidential work evaluated by former presidents or great business leaders rather than by the street and its countless self-proclaimed experts.


I have supported throughout this article the need for hierarchy and campaigned for its extension so that it becomes less visible and burdensome again. I quote in conclusion the strongest argument for the obligation of hierarchy, which I do not detail here but which regular readers of the blog will easily understand: Being ourselves internally a conceptual hierarchy, we need a hierarchy inside outside to integrate our personal world into reality.

Otherwise we are generally content to want to replace reality with this personal world, losing in the process countless nuances of reality, respect for the worlds specific to our fellow human beings, and the knowledge of the common reality which will make it possible to achieve our wishes. Rerouting a world is not done by pushing it from the outside, poor ants that we are. Our only chance is to fit in, climb its hierarchy, and finally start turning the wheel.

To support the principle of hierarchy is to support one’s own personal achievement, not to curb it.


Child, John – Hierarchy, A Key Idea for Business and Society, 2019
Perrineau, Pascal – Populism, 2021
Piketty, Thomas – Capital in the 21st Century, 2013

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