Hierarchy and Organisation: Toward a General Theory of Hierarchical Social Systems, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Hierarchy and Organisation

Toward a General Theory of Hierarchical Social Systems, 1st Edition

By Thomas Diefenbach


302 pages

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Most people take the conditions they work and live in as a given, believing it to be normal that societies are stratified and that organisations are hierarchical. Many even think that this is the way it should be - and are neither willing nor able to think that it could be otherwise. This book raises the awareness of hierarchy, its complexity and longevity. It focuses on a single but fundamental problem of social systems such as dyads, groups, organisations and whole societies: Why and how does hierarchical social order persist over time? In order to investigate the question, author Thomas Diefenbach develops a general theory of the persistence of hierarchical social order. This theory interrogates the problem of the persistence of hierarchical social order from very different angles, in multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary ways. Even more crucially, it traces the very causes of the phenomenon, the reasons and interests behind hierarchy as well as the various mechanisms which keep it going.

This is the first time such a theory is attempted. With the help of the theory developed in this book, it is possible to interrogate systematically, comprehensively and in detail how mindsets and behaviours as well as societal and organisational structures enable the continuation of hierarchy


"This book opens up a fascinating and informative vista in which hierarchies are everywhere being established, and, sooner or later, dismantled. Thomas Diefenbach presents a detailed and insightful analysis of what hierarchy means in today’s world, especially in the contemporary workplace. This book is essential for students and researchers interested in the way power and domination solidifies into hierarchies in organizations and society."Peter Fleming, University of London, UK

"Diefenbach’s Hierarchy in Organisations is a timely investigation into a social issue affecting the everyday life of everyone. It is an exciting and exquisite look into the pathologies of hierarchies explaining why hierarchies have persisted for thousands of years. Diefenbach’s work makes one reflect on something we have, perhaps unconsciously, grown accustomed to. He shows that life devoid of hierarchies remains an important option in advancing the ‘human condition.’"Thomas Klikauer, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Longevity of Hierarchy 3. A General Theory of Hierarchical Social Systems 4. Application of the Theory – How Hierarchy Works 5. Socrates – the Un-Normal Normal Person Who Won by Losing 6. Why Things (Almost Always) Don’t Change

About the Author

Thomas Diefenbach is Professor of Business Ethics and Organisation Studies at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU), Japan. His research focuses on socio-philosophical and critical analysis of organisations, individuals within organisations, the morality of human behaviour and the ethical dimensions of social systems. In his latest monograph Management and the Dominance of Managers (2009) he developed a comprehensive and multi-dimensional model for critically investigating managers' power, interests, and ideology within an organisational context.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Management, Organizations and Society

Management, Organizations and Society represents innovative work grounded in new realities; addressing issues crucial to an understanding of the contemporary world. This is the world of organized societies, where boundaries between formal and informal, public and private, local and global organizations have been displaced or vanished along with other nineteenth century dichotomies and oppositions. Management, apart from becoming a specialised profession for a growing number of people, is an everyday activity for most members of modern societies. Management, Organizations and Society will address these contemporary dynamics of transformation in a manner that transcends disciplinary boundaries, with work which will appeal to researchers, students and practitioners alike.

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Subject Categories

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