The Paradox of Individualism and Hierarchy

“Hierarchy is an organizational tool that comes with both benefits and costs. The benefit is that hierarchy is a potent way of organizing large groups. By concentrating power, hierarchical groups can act cohesively in ways that egalitarian groups cannot. (For details, see Peter Turchin’s book Ultrasociety.) This cohesiveness is a huge advantage in group competition. But it comes with a cost — namely despotism. When groups use hierarchy to organize, rulers inevitably use their power to enrich themselves. This despotism, in turn, undermines the benefits of hierarchy to the rest of the group. So to reap hierarchy’s benefits, groups must concentrate power without succumbing to despotism.

Perhaps individualism grows with hierarchy because this worldview is a tool for limiting despotism.”