Hierarchy: A Key Idea for Business and Society, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


A Key Idea for Business and Society, 1st Edition

By John Child


150 pages

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pub: 2019-05-20
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Written by a world-renowned authority, Hierarchy takes readers on a journey which traverses how hierarchy has evolved, is understood in various disciplines, and is applied in practice.

Referring a wide range of sources, the book provides an inspirational introduction to understanding what is perhaps the key idea in business and management. As a fundamental organizational principle, hierarchy is everywhere. Perhaps because of its ubiquity, the significance of hierarchy has become under-analyzed in view of the growing strains on society imposed by organizational inequality. This book analyzes the advantages and disadvantages that hierarchy brings as a form of organization, providing an accessible overview of this fundamental idea within both business and society.

This concise book provides a useful overview of existing research, for both students and scholars of business.


"John Child elegantly captures the yin and yang of social hierarchy. His book dives deep into a perplexing paradox that permeates all organizations and cultures: hierarchies functionally and efficiently organize our interactions, yet they create division and inequality. John not only exposes this paradox but, more importantly, he identifies ways to harness the good in social hierarchy while minimizing its dark downside. It is a very timely read!" Adam Galinsky, Professor of Business at Columbia University, USA and co-author of the best-selling book, Friend & Foe

"This impressive book combines an admirably broad focus on the phenomenon of hierarchy – ranging from its understanding by ancient philosophers to the latest analysis by contemporary business scholars – with great theoretical depth and extensive empirical substantiation of hierarchy’s many forms and consequences. For Child, the consequences go well beyond those of co-ordination and control of business operations to troubling social and political outcomes for contemporary society, and he makes his case by drawing on the literature from several disciplines. Beyond its intrinsic interest, the book’s exemplary clarity and accessible style will ensure it a readership well beyond the field of business management."Christel Lane, Professor Emeritus of Economic Sociology, University of Cambridge, UK

"In his latest monograph, John Child describes succinctly how hierarchy persistently has been the backbone of our societies and organisations and, crucially, how this can - and should - be changed."Thomas Diefenbach, Professor in Management, Charles Darwin University, Australia

"Modern organizations are supposed to be lean and decentralized, innovative and networked, open and project-based. Nevertheless, hierarchy remains the backbone of organizational coordination. This is what Professor John Child makes crystal clear in this book on the role of hierarchy in organizations, thereby linking the development of modern forms of organizing to developments in society (e.g. in terms of inequality). Written in a very accessible and concise style, John Child draws on a wide variety of disciplines, including not only economics, psychology, and sociology, but also anthropology and philosophy. A must read!" — Jörg Sydow, Professor of Management, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Table of Contents

1. What is Hierarchy and Why Does it Matter? Part I Hierarchy in Society at Large 2. Normative Perspectives on Hierarchy 3. Perspectives on Hierarchy in the Human and Social Sciences Part II Hierarchy in Organizations 4. The Persistence of Organizational Hierarchy 5. The Downside of Organizational Hierarchy Part III The Case for Reform 6. Hierarchy and the Contemporary Crisis 7. Reforming Hierarchy

About the Author

John Child is Professor of Commerce at the University of Birmingham, UK and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of 25 books and numerous scholarly articles.

About the Series

Key Ideas in Business and Management

Understanding how business affects and is affected by the wider world is a challenge made more difficult by the disaggregation between various disciplines, from operations research to corporate governance. This series features concise books that break out from disciplinary silos to facilitate understanding by analysing key ideas that shape and influence business, organizations and management.

Each book focuses on a key idea, locating it in relation to other fields, facilitating deeper understanding of its applications and meanings, and providing critical discussion of the contribution of relevant authors and thinkers. The books provide students and scholars with thought-provoking insights that aid the study and research of business and management.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Organizational Behavior