Power Structures Through Time and Revolt

July 10, 2007

In reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, The Post-Capitalist Society by Peter Drucker, and Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller, I have absorbed a sense of history encapsulated in the following summaries of power structures.

Societal Structure versus The Characteristics of Wealth

  • Hunter Gatherer – Ability to find, kill, and pick food
  • Peasant/Lord – Land and muscle to farm
  • Worker/Industrialist – Machines and electricity
  • Service Worker/Knowledge Worker/Venture Capitalist – Information and the people to manage it

What strikes me is the tipping of the scales of power. In the beginning, we have power concentrated in each individual. Then it tips sharply to the Lord who has God-like mastery of his people, as portrayed by the Egyptians. And then to the Industrialist, but as powerful as the captains of industry became, the Industrialist never had the power of feudal lords. Now power lies with the person who can configure knowledge either through the management of knowledge workers, or directly so.

So what does this mean about revolt? In the Hunter-Gatherer world, you could simply leave the tribe, take your direct family and start a new one. In the Feudal period, you had to rise up and kill the lords (and it had to be all of them or other lords would come for revenge) like in the French Revolution. For the Industrial example, there is the labor strike. But what about the knowledge worker? One problem of revolt is the blending of classes through increased mobility. But to think that leads to the annihilation of social discontent is naive. Perhaps the knowledge society’s revolt is passive resistance, such as tax revolts and civil disobedience.

This my be why civil liberty is on the decline in the United States. People are not aware of a new means of fighting injustice.

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