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[ox-en] Does mimetic rivalry preclude Peak Hierarchy?

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Interesting discussion, for which further contributions would be most

Below is a reaction to Zbigniew's blog entry on mimetic rivalry, published
here at
below in full text)

(for context, Peak Hierarchy is described here at,
more at

Here's my comment:

Dear Zbigniew:

Thanks for your interesting contribution. There are certainly problems that
adhere to online communities, and that may be related to what you call
mimetic rivalry. However, it is not clear to me why this militates against
the Peak Hierarchy meme. The fact that online communities are adhocracies
that rise and fall freely is in my opinion not necessarily a weakness, but
actually a strength of that social form.

So a few questions:

1) why are the problems of online communities different that those of others
in that respect? My sense is that human organisation is difficult, period,
but that actually, the more free aggregation that online communities offer
are a specific solution to avoid mimetic rivalries, i.e. a conflict
avoidance scheme that limits conflicts to where they are really necessary

2) why would hierarchies be better suited to avoid it than decentralized or
distributed organisational forms? To my knowledge, hierarchy driven social
organisation where pretty much characterized by conflicts and wars. My sense
is that decentralized democracies and distributed open design communities
would go less to war with each other than hierarchical social structures.

3) Apart from my questions: peak hierarchy claims to be a factual statement
(or rather, a hypothesis about reality, that needs to be tested and
confirmed), i.e. that more distributed forms of organisation are more
efficient than hierarchical ones. This is to my point of view, independent
of mimetic rivalry, that operates in all social systems, not just in
distributed ones.

Would I be correct in concluding that your point of view means that
hierarchical systems are the best to control and mitigate mimetic rivalry
and that therefore, hierarchy is poised to remain a dominant social form?

I have a conviction that abundance, and the design and conviction of
abundance into social systems (designing away scarcity wherever possible),
is a way to relax mimetic rivalry, not to enhance it.



I am sure I am not alone wondering about the recurring pattern of the decay
of on-line communities.  It seems that it is unevitable that after they grow
into becoming some significant force they always deteriorate into
a total melt-down.   A glimpse of an answer I found in the theory
rivalry developed by Rene Girard - who shows how easily conflict can develop
in any human group. According to his theory the pattern is universal and
institutions and religion were developed to contain it.

This rivalry and resentment process is what happens to on-line communities
and it is also a powerful argument against the Peak
but I have not yet seen this kind of analysis applied to contemporary
organisations. Organization as containment of acquisitive mimetic rivalry:
the contribution of Renre
 John Desmond and Donncha Kavanagh is the first research article I
found that explores these ideas and proposes a research agenda.  I believe
it is an important direction - not to deterr us from creating online
communities - but for understanding the difficulties that we encounter.

The quote below is an example of the analysis of the unconscious forces that
work under the surface in even the most common human group set ups:

Another factor worthy of more research is the role played by ritual in
mediating mimetic rivalry within organizational contexts. We might
tentatively suggest that in general ritual seems to direct  symbolic and
actual violence in directions that further the goals of the organization and
which prevents the outbreak of acquisitive mimetic rivalry. For example
Ackroyd & Crowdy (1990) offer examples to show that the targets for
"practical jokes" in the slaughterhouse that formed the basis of their study
were usually  hose who were slower and less efficient at tasks than the

Discussing the general role of insults in organization Gabriel (1998),
argues that this is a political process that establishes a kind of "pecking
order", thus restricting rivalry to the next slot available in the
hierarchy. These arguments support the view that mimetic behaviour is ever
present in organizational contexts but that this rarely escalates to
acquisitive mimetic rivalry.

Compare that with The Tyranny of
Jo Freeman.

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