Authority and institutions of hierarchy
What effects do these have on individuals subjected to them ?
It is true that the more authority an individual is subjected too the less happy he is inclined to be - as studies show those with the greatest amount of personal autonomy within the workplace are the happiest, those with the least are unhappy. Personal contentment, self esteem and sense of worth are generally undermined by being subjected to the power of other individuals, this is self evident. Leadership within a group hierarchy robs from all men subject to that leadership their very essence - when applied to the process of production this relates to what Marx refers to as Alienation.
In the words of the Sydicalist miners -
Leadership means power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood sic!, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his and the order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being 'the men' In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy." Indeed, for the "leader," such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader "sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion." [The Miners' Next Step, pp. 16-17 and p. 15]
The psychological effects of being 'acted upon' and subjected to the whims and desires of others is especially brutal. People slowly begin to surrender their essence and will to the authority which exists within hierarchy and so become institutionalised individuals, devoid of the inherent urge to create and be free. This can be seen everyware - from prisons to schools to workplaces. Psychology and even social science to an extent recognize the nature of the damage done by hierarchical institutions but for obvious reasons focus on the individual as opposed to the society which created the problems. Their is a prevailing culture of 'fixing' damaged people so they can cope within a broken society - rather than fixing the broken society which damaged them !
In the words of the Spanish Anarchist Martha Ackelsberg
"Hierarchical institutions foster alienated and exploitative relationships among those who participate in them, disempowering people and distancing them from their own reality. Hierarchies make some people dependent on others, blame the dependent for their dependency, and then use that dependency as a justification for further exercise of authority. Those in positions of relative dominance tend to define the very characteristics of those subordinate to them . Anarchists argue that to be always in a position of being acted upon and never to be allowed to act is to be doomed to a state of dependence and resignation. Those who are constantly ordered about and prevented from thinking for themselves soon come to doubt their own capacities and have difficulty acting on [their] sense of self in opposition to societal norms, standards and expectations." [Martha Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain, pp. 40-1]
Needless to that those who benefit from the hierarchy have constructed a series of myths around the nature of the hierarchy i.e. - it is natural essential and beneficial for all involved. Lets dispose of these myths -
A hierarchy is a social construct based on unequal distribution of power - society can dismantle constructs if it so wishes. It is in no way beneficial to those subjugated to it for the reasons stated. The alternative is an equal system based on free association and democratic decision making, so it is by no means 'the only option'. -
Those who enjoy positions of considerable authority, power and autonomy within the hierarchy become corrupted and addicted to the status afforded to them by those who are at 'the top'. They must be afforded good treatment less they become disillusioned with the true nature of the system. To fire people and use them as objects requires compensation - 'luckily for them' it gets easier for them over time and justification sets in. It should be noted however that many people consider it better to be - on the devils side rather than in his path. These people both "respect" authority and 'desire' to exercise it themselves on subordinates. Individuals with such a character structure do not really want to dismantle hierarchies due to the mental and material satisfaction they derive from them.
It has been shown that health and even life expectancy are much less for people of lower socio economic class - this is often due to their being subjugated to authority for long periods.