Tyranny of Structurelessness

2 thoughts
last posted April 21, 2014, 5:55 a.m.

Key points from The Tyranny of Structurelessness:

The myth of "structurelessness"

"Structurelessness" is organizationally impossible. It does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones.

Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion.

Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power. It is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not).

As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.

The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized.


A Structured group always has formal structure, and may also have an informal, or covert, structure. It is this informal structure, particularly in Unstructured groups, which forms the basis for elites.

An individual, as an individual can never be an elitist, because the only proper application of the term "elite" is to groups. Correctly, an elite refers to a small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are part, usually without direct responsibility to that larger group, and often without their knowledge or consent.

Elites are not conspiracies.

Very seldom does a small group of people get together and deliberately try to take over a larger group for its own ends.

Because elites are informal does not mean they are invisible.


  1. The informal structure of decision-making will be much like a sorority -- one in which people listen to others because they like them and not because they say significant things.

  2. Informal structures have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly influenced by the group.

  3. "Stars" — people who can't be removed from positions of power, nor can they leave them without being visibly toppled from their pedestal. (This has a negative side for the group and the individuals, who also experience backlash for their unaccountable popularity.)

  4. Unstructured groups may be very effective in getting people to talk; they aren't very good for getting things done. It is when people get tired of "just talking" and want to do something more that the groups flounder. (Possible for an informal structure to "work" on small scale, but not on a big one.)

  5. Harder to aim: "The more unstructured a movement it, the less control it has over the directions in which it develops and the actions in which it engages."

Idle hands in unstructured groups

When a group has no specific task, the people in it turn their energies to controlling the group. This is not done so much out of a malicious desire to manipulate others as out of a lack of anything better to do with their talents.

Able people with time on their hands and a need to justify their coming together put their efforts into personal control, and spend their time criticizing the personalities of the other members in the group.

1 later thought