Deleuze & Guattari

Hierarchies – inspired by D&G campaign, postproduction Luminita Molico

by Luminita Molico

Assuming the period starting after the end of the Cold War as postmodern, Lupton (1999 pp.11-2) states that the status quo is dominated by a constant reevaluation of established thought and deconstruction of tradition. Further citing Giddens 1990; Massumi 1993; Lash and Urry 1994; Featherstoe 1995; Lupton (1999 pp.11-2) identifies postmodernity as an era dominated by uncertainty and ambivalence towards ‘change and flux, cultural fragmentation and the breakdown of norms and traditions’. This period—Lupton (1999 pp.11-2) claims—is also chracterized by the compression of time and space or an escalation in human, goods and services circulation leaving the individual in an expanding state of ‘uncertainty, complexity, ambivalence and disorder, a growing distrust of social institutions of traditional authorities’. As a result, decissions of individuals are questioned and defined as a root cause of disasters thus laying grounds for the concept of risk as a dominant feature of the decision making process. (Lupton, 1999 pp.11-2)

It is in this context that distributed and non-linear hierarchical organizational models are challenging traditional working environments suggesting alternatives for the future of the ‘liquid’ society (Bauman, 2007).

This paper will not attempt to predict the future of the work environment rather it will investigate the possible integration and interdependence of horizontal and vertical hierarchical structures within future organizational management systems using (1) Deleuze’s ‘control society’ theory, (2) Deleuze & Guattari’s philosophical ‘rhizome’ theory (3) Galloway’s technological ‘protocol’ theory and (4) two factual organizational management alternatives represented by ‘tiger teams’ and Holacracy.

Deleuze (1990 p.170) states ‘without history the experimentation would remain indeterminate’. Further, Deleuze (1990 p.170) cites Peguy from Clio—one of his significant philosophical works—who argues that there are two different ways of considering events:

One being to follow the course of the event, gathering how it comes about historically, how it’s prepared and then decomposes in history, while the other way is to go back into the event, to take one’s place in it as in a becoming, to grow both young and old in it at once, going through all its components or singularities. Becoming isn’t part of the history; history amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to ‘become’, that is, to create something new. (Deleuze, 1990 pp.170-71)

In his book (1999 p. 325) Manuel DeLanda stress on the idea that one can understand the present and foresee the future only if it refers to history through a philosophical perspective:

I would like to repeat my call for more realistic models of economic history, models involving the full complexity of the institutional ecologies involved, including markets, anti-markets, military and bureaucratic institutions, and if we are to believe Michel Foucault, schools, hospitals, prisons, and many others. It is only through an honest philosophical confrontation with our complex past that we can expect to understand it and derive the lessons we may use when intervening in the present and speculating the future.

As a philosopher, Michel Foucault is mostly interested in the historical shift from what he calls the ‘sovereign’ or ‘classical’ era of the eighteenth century to ‘disciplinary’ or ‘modern’ era, starting with the French Revolution and continuing until the first part of the twentieth century (Deleuze, 1990 p.177-78). While in sovereign societies punishment is more pregnant, during the early nineteenth century ‘the great spectacle of physical punishment disappeared […] The age of sobriety in punishment had begun’ (Foucault, 1995 p.14). Writing about Foucault, Deleuze (1990 p.177) states that ‘disciplinary societies’ operate within major sites of confinement such as the family, the school, the barracks, the factory, the hospital and the prison. Foucault (1990 p.177) also summarizes an ideal model of confinement by ‘bringing everything together, giving each thing its place, organizing time, setting up in this space-time a force of production greater than the sum of component forces’.

Deleuze (1990 p.178) describes the third type of—contemporary—society as being in the middle of an extensive collapse of all sites of confinement. Reforms, at all levels, from ministers to hospitals and from army to education, are simultaneously taking place. Deleuze even announces the breakdown of disciplinary societies stating: ‘control societies are taking over’ (Deleuze, 1990 p.178). He further states:

It’s not a question of asking whether the old or new system is harsher or more bearable, because there is a conflict in which between the ways they free and enslave us.

If the confinements are to be considered molds, the control is described as a modulation ‘like a self-transmuting molding continually changing from one moment to the next, or like a sieve whose mesh varies from one point to another’ (Deleuze, 1990 pp.178-79).

Deleuze (1990 p.180) describes the transformational process within control societies indicating that the ‘digital language of control’ becomes—form a key or a signature in disciplinary societies—a password or a code indicating if access to information should be allowed of denied. Further Deleuze (1990 p.180) states that the individual and the mass no longer form dual entity rather ‘individuals become “dividuals” and masses become samples, data, markets, or “banks”’.

Whether Galloway (2004 pp.23-4) calls it ‘late capitalism’, Deleuze ‘control society’ (1990 p.178), Castells (1996) ‘network society’ or Hardt & Negri (2000) ‘Empire’, ‘the capitalism in its present form is no longer directed toward production […] it’s directed towards metaproduction […] it buys finished products or assembles them from parts […] thus is essentially dispersive, with factories giving way to businesses’ (Deleuze, 1990). All the confinements are converging into a single owner ’but transmutable or transformable coded configuration of a single business where the only people left are administrators’ (Deleuze, 1990 p.181).

Whereas Deleuze (1990 p. 181) sees control as ‘short-term and rapidly shifting, but at the same time continuous and unbounded’, Hardt & Negri (2000 p. 23) argue that in control societies the power mechanism is more democratic equally distributed throughout mind and body.

To conclude, Deleuze (1990 p.181) predicts that even if capitalism still ‘keeps three quarters of humanity in extreme poverty’ control will be challenged by borderless territories and poverty nomadism with a majority of individuals ‘too poor to have debts and too numerous to be confined’. Thus control societies are ‘continuous and unbounded’, Deleuze (1990 p.182) raises the possibility that ‘sovereign societies’ control techniques might reappear in an adaptive form.

Complementary to Deleuze’s notion of control society—in his book—Castells (1996) suggests that corporate organizational structures have altered during the fourth quarter of the 20th century from a decentralized ‘vertical’ to a distributed ‘horizontal’ meshwork:

‘The corporation itself has changed its organizational model, to adapt to the conditions of unpredictability ushered in by rapid economic and technological change. The main shift can be characterized as the shift from vertical bureaucracies to the horizontal corporation.’ (Castells, 1996 p. 24)

This transformation reiterates the structural dissimilarity between the ‘arborescent’ and the ‘rhizome’ notions used in describing Deleuze & Guattari’s model for information organization. (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998)

A rhizome, according to Chambers English Dictionary, is ‘a rootstock, an underground mass producing roots and leafy shoots’. Ingram, Vince-Prue & Gregory (2002 p.158) define rhizomes as:

Specialized underground stems, which also serve as storage organs. The main shoot dies at the end of the season and becomes replaced by one or more lateral buds in a typically sympodial branching pattern. These secondary rhizomes, in turn, produce an arial shoot after a single node, or after many nodes.

For Robinson & McGuire (2010) ‘sympodial’ representing a recurrent and asymmetrical branching.

Robinson & McGuire (2010) further mark out Deleuze & Guattari’s definition of the rhizome as a mass of roots and tubers connected within a non-hierarchical horizontally spreading network of an unpredictable and irregular form—this biological model metaphorically representing the nature of information and knowledge. Though going beyond the immediate associations with the library system, Deleuze & Guattari’s study is rather concerned with the notion of classification in an inclusive intellectual, social and political space (Robinson & McGuire, 2010).

According to Robinson & McGuire (2010) in chosing the term ‘rhizome’ Deleuze & Guattari make a clear refference to the established hierarachical organizational model—the ‘arborescent’ or the ‘tree structure’. A fundamental intellectual model within the Western thought system that has its roots in the Aristotelian ‘classic theory of categories’ which classifies entities by placing them rationally in categories defined by shared sets of characteristics.

The ‘arborescent’ model has a vertical fixed structure in which elements sharing ‘traits of the same nature’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998 p. 21) are binary linked, each element having a unique position within the scheme. Hierarchical classification divisions are made in accordance to a single mutually exclusive point of reference, consequently any distinctiveness separates any one entity from similar elements (Robinson & McGuire, 2010). In order to further expand the discourse, Robinson & McGuire (2010) cite Cavenagh (2007 p. 44) in defining ‘tree logic’ as a:

form of cognition in which information, ideas, people and institutions are ordered hierarchically according to predecessors and roots […] Thus, tree order is an order based on similarity and offers a taxonomy of forms within a category.

Robinson & McGuire (2010) argue that Deleuze & Guattari rhizome concept steps away from the imperative and strict arborescent hierarchies, allowing for a decentralized more pragmatic non-hierarchical horizontal linkage of entities—based on immediate needs rather than resemblance—in which direct connections can be instantly established at any moment between any two given elements.

Unlike the tree structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations between the positions, the rhizome is made only of lines […] the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998 p. 21).

This description, Robinson & McGuire (2010) point out, draws clear parallels with the non-linear and non-hierarchical digital hyperlinked environment, comparing Deleuze and Guattari’s undertaking with (Goodchild, 1996 p.2) ‘nomadism’ where ‘there is no longer any ultimate goal or direction, but merely a wandering along a multiplicity of lines of flight that lead away from centres of power’. Though Deleuze and Guattari’s work precedes the ‘web age’ it also outlines some of the problems inherent to informational arborescent hierarchies regarding the absolute authority of unidirectional dissemination and control over information from a ‘central organ’ to the final entity (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998 p. 16).

Further, Robinson & McGuire (2010) make an analogy to the Internet users browsing habits that usually don’t follow rational pre-defined trajectories but rather ‘rhizome-like’ random surface hovering over diverse topics, thus laying the ground for a comparison with ‘a rhizomic structure, a system of nodes and links without a fixed centre or underlying hierarchical pattern’ as O’Sullivan (2009 p. 134) defines the concept of ‘wiki’ or the Internet’s 6th most popular website—Wikipedia.org (Alexa.com).

Writing about the Internet, Seto (2006 p. 1) argues that ‘each item [web page] is a node of the rhizome and has the potential to be linked to infinite numbers of other nodes’—a statement which draws attention to some of the practical problems raised by such a vast unregulated space. Dreyfus (2009) points out that the web’s hyperlinks don’t provide a superior information management system to the established arborescent model used in libraries, instead they enable a more natural and simple model given the current technology (Robinson & McGuire, 2010); as a downside: when everything can be linked to everything else without regard for purpose or meaning, the vast size of the web and arbitrariness of the links make it extremely difficult for people desiring specific information to find the information they seek (Dreyfus, 2009 p. 11).

Dreyfus (2009) further gives a practical example of ‘Aristotelian mode’ in which a person interested in a certain species must first study animals before making his way down the informational structure to the desired subject—with limited options of making ‘creative’ lateral discoveries throughout the process or of ‘cutting across’ multiple layers of information (Robinson & McGuire, 2010). Making a reference to philosophical movements, Dreyfus (2009 p. 12) asserts:

Clearly, the user of a hyper-connected library would no longer be a modern subject with a fixed identity who desires a more complete and reliable model of the world, but rather a postmodern, protean being ready to be opened up to ever new horizons. Such a new being is not interested in collecting what is significant but in connecting to as wide a web of information as possible.

Robinson & McGuire (2010) conclude citing Cavenagh (2007 p. 45) that:

it is as if all knowledge were disordered and a new order emerges, not from the decisions of library committees, scholars or other credentialised information experts, to order it in some way, but from the activities of those who use it and make their own connections. Thus rhizomes are inherently heterogeneous, bringing together and juxtaposing elements from all social and intellectual locations.

It is in this last context that new questions arise, touching the sphere of practicability within such a vast and decentralized system or how Liu (2004 pp.374-5) in The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information exemplifies: ‘while knowledge workers may vote for rhizomic democracy in principle, they also want firewalls for their personal computers: and they kill Bermuda grass on their lawns’.

In Table 1, Dreyfus (2009, p. 13) draws a seemingly polar and illuminating (Robinson & McGuire, 2010) comparison between the ‘Old library culture’ and the ‘Hyperlinked culture’ whilst Robinson & McGuire (2010) support the assertion that the table provides a basis for developing a complementary relation between the two systems.

This thesis of complementarity and non-exclusion is also supported by Sukovic (2008, p.83) when describing the advantages of having ‘associative ability and flexibility of the network, as well as the need for some control and structure […] [in] both root-like and rhizomic structures’. Sukovic (2008) illustrates further:

An information system can follow the arborescent structure of the natural lemon tree as well as the rhizomatic structure of an imaginary red-leaved plant on which blue lemons grow. These two structures can complement each other or be exchanged as required.

To conclude, ‘the rhizome metaphor’ as defined by Deleuze & Guattari (1998) presents itself not only as a contemporary liberating model for the management of information, but when integrated with strict ‘arborescent’ principles, it provides a blueprint for a highly efficient, open and creative framework.

Describing the rise of the network society, Castells (1996 p.29) states:

At the end of the twentieth century, we are living through one of these rare intervals in history…’that occur with great rapidity’ [Stephen J. Gould]… An interval characterized by the transformation of our ‘material culture’ by the works of a new technological paradigm organized around information technologies.

During the Cold War, in the late 1950s, in response to the Soviet Sputnik launch, Paul Baran from Rand Corporation, wanted to develop a computer network that was ‘independent of centralized command and control’ who would be able to resist a nuclear attack aimed at centralized hubs (Galloway, 2004 p.5).

Galloway (2004 pp.6-8) describes the protocol as a content neutral information wrapper—a core concept of network computing and defines it as a ‘distributed management system that allows control to exist within a heterogeneous material milieu’.

Referring to contemporary criticism that the Internet is an uncertain mass of data, ‘rhizomatic and lacking central organization’, Galloway (2004 p.8) suggests that this misconception has its roots in a ‘contradiction between two opposing machines’: one that distributes control in self-governing areas and the other one that encapsulates the control within very rigid established hierarchies. The tension between these two machines generates a ‘hospitable climate for protocological control’. TCP/IP protocol being iconic for the first machinic technology and creating ‘nonhierarchical, peer-to-peer relations’, whereas DNS—a large decentralized database—being iconic for the second machinic technology (Galloway, 2004 p.8).

Within any network relation the protocols are multiple and nested, or as Marshal Mc Luhan said, ‘the content of every new protocol is always another protocol’ therefore the protocols cannot be centralized (Galloway, 2004 p.10).

Galloway (2004 p.11) further uses three models of network diagrams as examples in order to explains how protocol works and why it is originated in the distributed networks ‘native to Deleuze’s control societies’.

The first one—the centralized network corresponds to the ‘panopticon’ described in Foucault’s sovereign societies. In this network, ‘the power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure’ (Foucault, 1995 p.197): it has one single point of command and attached to it are radial satellite nodes which themselves are connected only to the central point (a host) (Galloway, 2004 p. 30-1).

The second one—the decentralized network, is a ‘multiplication of the centralized network’ and also the most frequent found diagram form of the ‘modern era’. In this model, multiple hubs coexist—each with its own range of dependent nodes. The satellite nodes may communicate with more hosts, but not with more hubs, thus eliminating any ‘zenith’ central point of control (Galloway, 2004 p. 31).

The third network diagram—the distributed network is a corresponding example of the ‘rhizome’ described in Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998).

The rise of distributed networks is part of a larger global shift in social life from ‘central bureaucracies and vertical hierarchies to a broad network of autonomous social actors’ (Galloway, 2004 p. 33) or as Alvin Toffler calls it—a Third Wave (1981). From a computer scientists point of view this shift describes the change from ‘linear programming to object-oriented programming, the latter a less centralized and more modular way of writing code.’ Galloway (2004 p. 33) or as Branden Hookway wrote:

The shift is occurring across the spectrum of information technologies as we move from models of the global application of intelligence, with their universality and frictionless dispersal, to one of local applications, where intelligence is site-specific and fluid. (Hookway, 1999 pp.33-4)

In distributed networks there are no central hubs or radial nodes, instead every entity is an autonomous agent (Galloway, 2004 p. 33). The network incorporates only ‘intelligent end-point systems that are self-deterministic, allowing each end-point system to communicate with any host it chooses’ (Galloway, 2004 p. 11). Just like Deleuze & Guattari’s rhizome, every node from a distributed network can communicate with another node without pleading for an intermediate hierarchy. Nevertheless these two nodes must speak the same language in order to begin communication. The network’s topography being outlined by shared protocols that implicitly define the very existence of the network and the connection between its elements (Galloway, 2004 p. 12).

Galloway (2004 p. 82) defines the protocol as follows:

– Protocol is a system of distributed management.
– Protocol facilitates peer-to-peer relationships between autonomous entities.
– Protocol is anti-hierarchy and anti-authority.
– Protocol engenders localized decision making, nor centralized.
– Protocol is robust, flexible and universal.
– Protocol is the outcome (not the antecedent) of distributed behaviour.

In trying to consider protocol in its political sense, Galloway (2004 p. 81) asserts that protocol is similar to both Deleuze’s ‘control societies’ and Foucault’s concept of ‘biopower’. While Deleuze’s ‘control societies’ are being described as mainly ‘digital’, functioning through ‘ultra rapid forms of apparently free-floating control’ (Deleuze, 1990 p. 178-9), Foucault’s ‘biopower’—a new method of control over life—is being defined in contrast to the older ‘sovereign power’ characterized by the transcendental relationship between life and death. Foucault argues that ‘power would no longer be dealing simply with legal subject over whom the ultimate domination was death, but with the living beings, and the mastery it would be able to exercise over them would have to be applied at the level of life itself.’ (Foucault, 1999 p. 142-3) Galloway stresses on the fact that this is the pivotal element when addressing protocol as power or as he calls it ‘a management style for distributed masses of autonomous agents.’ (2004 p. 81-7)

In contemporary life protocol fails to happen in many places due to the supremacy of capitalism (Galloway, 2004 p. 120) or the ‘animated monster’ as Marx called it. To further quote Marx: ‘capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.’ (Marx, 1867 p. 342) and this vampire ‘will not let go while there remains a single drop of blood to be exploited’ (Marx, 1867 p. 416). Although protocol has its roots within a bureaucratic and institutional context—there needs to be reminded that Internet originates in the American academic and military culture of the 1950s and 1960s and its inventor, Paul Baran based its network on a technology called ‘packet-switching’ that permitted messages to fragment themselves into other small fragments, each fragment being able to find its way to its terminus point on a predetermined pathway—‘bureaucracy is protocol atrophied, while propriety is protocol reified’ (Galloway, 2004 p. 121). Galloway (2004 p.121) concludes that bureaucratic and institutional forces along with proprietary interests epitomize serious challenges for protocol in successfully functioning within digital computer networks as they represent the opposite of protocol’s control logic.

In order to blossom fully as a management diagram, protocol requires a strategy of ‘universalization and homogeneity. It must be anti-diversity. It must promote standardization in order to enable openness’ (Galloway, 2004 p. 142). According to the same author, protocol provides the fertile terrain for a ‘warm, friendly’ technological environment but it becomes this way only ‘through technical standardization, agreement, organized implementation, broad (sometimes universal) adoption and directed participation (Galloway, 2004 p. 142).

Galloway (2004 p.142) continues stating that protocol must group peer throughout bureaucracies ‘in order to create free technologies’. The generative contradiction that keeps the Net alive and makes it progressive lies in the standardization that through its politically reactionary tactic makes radical openness possible, that is to say DNS and its hierarchical governance is precisely the reactionary tactic that empowers Internet Protocol’s distributed and open architecture.

To conclude, Galloway (2004 p.143) argues that control within distributed networks represents a mass of interconnected currents and counter-currents acting in multiple, parallel, contradictory and unpredictable ways.
Sterling (1994 p. 184) writes about the change from a modern control paradigm focused on centralization and hierarchy to a postmodern one based on flexibility and horizontalization:

For years now, economists and management theorists have speculated that the tidal wave of the information revolution would destroy rigid, pyramidal bureaucracies, where everything is top-down and centrally controlled. Highly trained ‘employees’ would take on greater autonomy, being self-starting and self-motivating, moving from place to place, task to task, with great speed and fluidity. ‘Ad-hocracy’ would rule, with groups of people spontaneously knitting together across organizational lines, tackling the problem at hand, applying intense computer-aided expertise to it, and then vanishing whence they came.

It’s precisely what Toffler (1981 p. 274-5) predicted a few years earlier when he mentioned that the future organizations—or The Third Wave organizations—will have ‘flatter hierarchies’, will be ‘dual’ or ‘poly’, being able to accept:

two or more distinct structural shapes as conditions warrant—rather like some plastic of the future that will change shape when heat or cold is applied but spring back into a basic form when the temperature is in its normal range.

Or like the concept of the rhizome that implies the idea of a subjectification by capture, connection and opening to the outside (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998).

Nicolas Bourriaud’s (2009 p. 53) ‘The Radicant’ book about multiculturalism, postmodernism and cultural globalization talks about a ‘nomadic’ or fluid style of thought that is structured ‘in terms of circuits and experiments rather than in terms of permanent installations, perpetuation, and build development.’ He calls the contemporary creators ‘radicants’—‘an organism that grows its roots and adds new ones as it advances’ (Bourriaud, 2009 p. 22)—and continues by saying that ‘radicant’ signifies laying ‘one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats […] translating ideas, transcoding imagines, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing’.

Bourriaud’s (2009 p. 77) modernity definition as ‘a collective setting in motion’ draws similitudes to Sterling’s (1994) idea of ‘tiger teams’ or ‘users groups’.

Sterling (1994) defines ‘tiger teams’ as groups of employees throughout computer companies whose task resides in testing security vulnerabilities within informational systems of large corporations or even Governments (Debatewise). Tiger teams deploy simulated hacker tactics (M.I.T., 2013) in order to identify and later enforce possible security breaches.

Retrospectively the word hacker meant a nonprofessional and self-taught person who, just like Thomas Edison, would first eliminate thousands of failed attempts before reaching out to success (Furr, 2011). Galloway (2004 p. 151) characterizes them as highly technological skilled, individuals that manage to ‘crack’ any problem, ‘fascinating […] adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, artists’ as Steven Levy said cited by Galloway (2004 p. 151-2) or as Sterling (1994 p. 51) completes—hackers represent ‘the free-wheeling intellectual exploration of the highest and deepest potential of computer systems’. Adaptable and multifaceted hackers are autonomous agents who organize themselves in small groups when addressing a specific problem (Galloway, 2004 p. 159) further dissolving them as fast as they were assembled and disperse into the network. Therefore hackers symbolize a different organizational management style than ‘pyramidal hierarchies’, one described above as protocological (Galloway, 2004 p. 160).

Galloway (2004 p. 159) compares this type of management to a practice that originated in Japan and associated with the automotive production facilities—known as Toyotism. Just like within ‘tiger teams’, in Toyotism small capsules of employees are grouping together in order to solve a certain problem that may occur within the organization. They are non-linear and flexible in contrast to the traditional assembly line that is rather predetermined, hierarchical and sequential.

Management expert, Tom Peters cited by Galloway (2004) points out that some corporations such as McKinsey & Company are using this type of management of tiger teams, eradicating the traditional hierarchy within the organizational structure:

McKinsey is a huge company […] but there is no traditional hierarchy. There are no organizational charts. No job description. No policy manuals. No rules about managing client engagement…And yet all these things are well understood—make no mistake, McKinsey is in control! McKinsey works. It’s worked for over a half a century.

Even though hacker teams represent highly efficient organizational structures they pose serious questions about the limits of the model if considered in a global scenario—as inquisitive and ‘revolutionary’ psychological characteristics are not shared by a majority of the population.

Galloway (2004 p.158) assertion about the nature of hacker psychology might imply a rethinking and realigning of global education system:

By knowing protocol better than anyone else, hackers push protocol into a state of hypertrophy, hoping to come out the other side. So in a sense, hackers are created by protocol, but in another, hackers are protocological actors par excellence.

Another example of company that embraced a non-hierarchical ‘rhizome type’ management style is Zappos. In December 2013 the CEO of the company announced (Groth, December 2013) that the organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy. The term originates from ‘holon’ a Greek word meaning ‘a whole that is part of a greater whole’ (Groth, December 2013).

According to Holacracy.org (HolacracyOne, 2014):

Holacracy is a comprehensive practice for structuring, governing, and running an organization. It replaces today’s top-down predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power. It is a new ‘operating system’ that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization.

When adhering to the principles of Holacracy a company is required to reorganize according to a radical new management system called a ‘constitution’ that places every employee—including the CEO—below the same set of strict rules (Holacracy, 2014b); Holacracy places absolute power in a ‘self-governing’ operating system by removing job titles and managerial hierarchies. Nevertheless the CEO retains a certain level of power in having the possibility of reverting to the old system at any given moment (Holacracy, 2014a).

Instead of keeping the conventional arborescent departmental layout employees will be distributed under a flat hierarchy structure determined by roles or ‘circles’ influenced by objectives rather than qualifications, or based around work rather than people. (Holacracy, 2014b)

Due to its artificial systemic nature, Jason Stirman cited by Groth (December 2013) argues that Holacracy is not a ‘human-centric’ model especially in the incipient stages of implementation or in the case of junior employees that might suffer from a lack of traditional leadership. To respond to this structural problem companies like Zappos and Medium have already responded by assembling what they call ‘mentorship circles’. (Groth, December 2013)
Jason Stirman (Groth, December 2013) states about Medium—a Holacracy run Internet company—that the main advantage of the ‘halocratic’ system is that it enables employees autonomy implying the need for an entrepreneurial mindset combined with a higher degree of accountability thus encouraging them in pursuing personal career trajectories.

Groth (December 2013) also mentions that Holacracy’s aim is to become a ‘politics-free system’ specially designed for complete transparency and against bureaucracy, delivering real-time response and flexibility.

Drawing a parallel to Galloway’s (2004) protocological theory the strict constitution-type set of rules applied within a horizontal human distribution structure forming the core base of Holacracy make this model a viable candidate for a practical example of the applicability of the protocol theory within the area of organizational management structures.

Nevertheless a solid argument in favour of Holacracy and ‘tiger teams’ as a superior organizational management structure cannot be made at this time. Mike Williams—CEO of The David Allen Company who decided to adopt Holacracy in 2011—argues:

Our answer [when asked about results] is a work in progress. We’ve improved our focus. We’ve increased our transparency. […] We increased our visibility to key companies. […] The change [to Holacracy] is raising new questions around growth. […] We’re still working on improving our top line numbers.

An implication of the findings resulted from the comparison between Deleuze & Guattari’s (1998) ‘rhizome’ theory and the Aristotelian ‘arborescent’ theory together with Galloway’s example of distributed network—the Web with non hierarchical TCP/IP and hierarchical DNS protocols—a complimentary relationship between the two structural models offers a highly feasible blueprint for an organizational model appropriate to a future ‘inclusive intellectual, social and political space’ (Robinson & McGuire, 2010).

At the end of this paper four hypothesis emerge that might lay foundations for a conclusion and also for future extensive theoretical exploration:
1. Deleuze’s (1990 p.181) prediction on the possibility that ‘sovereign societies’ control techniques might reappear in an adaptive form within the newly formed control society.
2. Deleuze & Guattari’s (1998) ‘rhizome metaphor’ possible organizational efficiency within a vast territory of elements when integrated with strict ‘arborescent’ principles.
3. Galloway (2004 p.143) argument that control within distributed networks represents a mass of interconnected currents and counter-currents acting as a liberating and creative agent.
4. Halocracy’s (HolacracyOne, 2014) future as a promising protocol inspired organizational management system.

These conclusions underline the fact that—in theory—flat hierarchical structures employed within an organizational structure demonstrate promising alternatives to current paradigms, but—practical examples—need to be tested in varied socio economical environments before being presented as universal alternatives.


Dreyfus, H.L. (2009, p.13), On the Internet, 2nd ed., Routledge, London



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