Why Societies Need Hierarchy to Function (and What that Means for Occupy)

The Occupy Movement is unique in seeking more equitable social change without the visible presence of individual leaders. But it's disdain for hierarchy may ultimately hurt its goals. 

What's the Latest Development?


The Occupy Movement, which has become the most palpable social force of the 21st century, is unique in its desire to change society without the visible presence of individual leaders. By focusing its activism on social media, it believes that the dissemination of information without appeal to authority will create a more egalitarian society. But new research suggests that social hierarchy is beneficial to populations whose size makes soliciting everyone's separate opinion not only very time consuming, but actually counterproductive in achieving the stated objective of creating a more equal society.

What's the Big Idea?

To be sure, the dissemination of accurate information is essential to creating a more equitable society, but what researchers at Birkbeck College in London and Oxford University have found runs contrary to common wisdom. While it is thought that cheap communication (Twitter is free minus the cost of a computer) can subvert hierarchy, "if there is an initial inequality in how information is distributed, lowering communication costs counter-intuitively sustains steep hierarchy and promotes inequality. ... If we want to avoid this effect of cheaper communication, they say, then we'll need ways of compensating for itfor example, by greater social investment in education to disseminate knowledge. The web won't do it for us."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

This 1997 Jeff Bezos interview proves he saw the future coming

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He was inspired by a statistic he learned while working at a hedge fund: In the '90s, web usage was growing at 2,300% a year.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less