There are many ways to organize groups of people. Generally, these tend to fall into one of four general categories. These are hierarchy, anarchy, rhizome, and matrix. Most people are familiar with the first. The second is fairly commonly known, although more often then not the person simply believes they understand it. The third and fourth are becoming more popularized, but remain fairly unknown. Among those who are interested in the formation of communities, methods of group organization other than hierarchy are more commonly known, but not necessarily well understood.
The first method of organization is hierarchy. We are all fairly familiar with the basic organizational scheme of hierarchy. Each person in a hierarchy is assigned a rank in comparison to everyone else in the hierarchy. Those at the top gain the most benefits and do the least work. The people at the bottom do the most work and gain the least benefits. Unfortunately, most people are at the bottom. Hierarchy innately causes a disconnect between people in a hierarchy. This disconnect causes feelings of alienation and anomie. Hierarchy also necessitates slavery to some degree. The most advanced civilizations tend to export their slave labor, but it is never done away with.
Despite poplar opinion among people interested in community, hierarchy does offer some advantages. First, hierarchy is more efficient at performing mundane, repetitive tasks. It does stifle creativity, and it does exhibit slow information transfer and response time when compared to organizational schemes in which everyone is equal. But for tasks relying on methodical precision without variation, hierarchies organize people more effectively than any of the other methods.
Hierarchies also allow a group of people to effectively overcome Dunbar’s Number. Since each individual member only needs to be aware of the people immediately above and below them in the hierarchy, the whole of the hierarchy can consist of more than 150 people without any individual person having to know more than 150 people.
Anarchy is, literally, without leaders. Arkhos being the Greek word for ruler, and “an-” is a prefix meaning without. Anarchy is not synonymous with chaos. Anarchy comes from chaos. The theory is, essentially, people without rules or structures will form social taboos and mores to form themselves into egalitarian groups. Ultimately, anarchies begin as chaos and end up as one of the other three schemes for organizing groups of people. Anarchy is a middle step that is occasionally used rather than a destination.
Rhizome is a network of loosely related, independent nodes. As such, organizing a community internally as a rhizome is impossible. A community is, by definition, a group of interdependent nodes (typically each node is a person). Whereas a rhizome is, by definition, independent nodes. These two states are mutually exclusive.
It maybe possible to organize a group of communities together in the format of a rhizome, indeed this may be ideal. A rhizome organization scheme cannot have slaves as members of the rhizome without ceasing to be rhizome. It also ensures individual freedom for each node. Theoretically, it can offer faster information transfer and response time than any other methodology.
However, there are two features limiting the usefulness of rhizome. First, a group of communities organized as a rhizome have no unifying principle or structure. This means they have tremendous difficulty working in concert. It would take an immense outside force working against the interests of every part of the rhizome to motivate them to work together. Some people may not see this as a problem, while others will.
Secondly, rhizome is completely subject to Dunbar’s Number. The whole of a true rhizome cannot be larger than 150. Only by introducing some elements of hierarchy can this limitation be overcome. Such an element maybe a charismatic leader, an authoritarian, or some other element. But if the leader has power over the system, the system is no longer a rhizome. It has either become a hierarchy or a mixed rhizome. Mixed rhizomes tend to either develop into true hierarchies over time, or else completely disintegrate into a chaotic or anarchistic state. This depends on whether or not the person exerting power can effectively maintain it throughout their lives and whether or not they can transfer that power after their deaths.
Matrix organizations require interdependence to properly function, the same as a community. In a matrix scheme there is rotating leadership based on proficiency in regards to the specific task being undertaken by the group. So, if the community is building a structure, the community’s best architect is the “boss.” Everyone follows the lead of the best architect because he is the most competent to organize the effort. Not out of some variation of coercion. This helps prevent the problem of the “boss” having limited or no competency in the task they are leading the group to accomplish. Also, no one takes advantage of their position as leader, because when dinner rolls around, the best cook is going to be in charge. And tomorrow the architect is helping to make clothing, and the best seamstress will be in charge. The secret of this structure is that everyone in the structure is generally competent in everything the group does. Some people simply have additional skill in certain fields.
In matrix organization, Dunbar’s Number serves as a limitation of efficiency rather than a limitation of size. After 150 people members of the group may begin to question whether or not the person “in charge” is actually the best possible person. After all, they no longer necessarily know each other. So, internally to a community a limit of 150 people is still preferable.
In between communities, matrix organization allows for the various communities to be interdependent, which encourages them to work more closely together. The problem with having so many people in a matrix organization is finding a non-hierarchal method for picking who will take lead on a particular project.
One way is to have a group of people whose job it is to keep records of everyone and to select the boss. But this creates a hierarchal structure out of matrix structure.
A better way might be to introduce occupational societies. Obtaining the highest levels of competency in some fields requires considerable training. This training is best provided by people who are themselves very competent in the field being taught. An occupational society, consisting of everyone in all the various communities who have a high level of competence in a given field would be ideal for the teaching of people interested in that field. But, more fundamentally, if one or more communities wants to build a monument, they no longer need to know who would be the best choice to lead the design and construction of the monument. They only need to know they should ask the occupational society responsible for building monuments. Then the occupational society picks from amongst themselves who is the best choice to take the lead on the new project.
This way everyone in every community only needs to know the societies and what they do. There is no need to know everyone individually, without relying on a central authority to tell someone to obey. And so Dunbar’s number does not cause problems.
Typically I am in favor of matrix organizational schemes internally to communities. Between communities either rhizome or matrix will probably be the best choice. The question is whether the communities in question will be in the same over-all organization or whether they are simply trading partners.