Hierarchy, Freedom and Learning

Learning Requires Freedom

Defeating Dominance and Achieving Equality

Hunter-Gatherers’ Playful Parenting

How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways

The Natural Environment for Children’s Self-Education

Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education

We humans have two fundamentally different ways of governing ourselves in social groups. One is the method of hierarchy, or dominance, or force. I need not describe this method in detail; we are all too familiar with it. This is the method of governance in which those in power keep order by telling the others what they must do and not do. This is the method that predominates in conventional schools, where teachers tell students what to do; in conventional businesses, where bosses tell employees what to do; and in civic, state, and national governments, where those in power–whether that power is founded in heredity, military coup, appointment, or election–decide upon and enforce the rules that people must live by. We share this method of governance with our animal relatives. Mammals that live in social groups, especially primates, develop dominance hierarchies in which those higher up control at least some of the activities of those below. The ultimate source of control in any dominance system lies in the ability of dominant individuals to hurt subordinates who disobey–by giving bad grades to students, or firing employees, or putting offenders in jail, or simply by beating up those who behave in an insubordinate manner.

The other method is so little known and little discussed that it does not have a commonly accepted name. Sometimes the term anarchy is used to refer to it, but that term carries a pejorative burden because it is so often used to imply social chaos. I am talking not about chaos, but about situations in which people abide by rules willingly and freely, not because of threats imposed by more powerful others. I refer to this method of governance as the method of play, because play is where we see it most clearly and, I think, play is always its ultimate source.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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