Politics in Minutes (2016)

Hierarchies

The larger and more sophisticated a society becomes, the more complex its organizational structures tend to be. Small tribal groups consisted simply of a single leader and his people – the ruler and the ruled – but modern nation states and even local communities have outgrown this simple model. Hierarchies of various sorts have evolved, with different levels of power and authority. A medieval monarch, for example, sat at the top of the pecking order, but between him and the ordinary serfs were the noble families of the aristocracy, given some power by the king in return for certain favours.

The pattern of hierarchies continues today in the pyramid-like structures of governments, with citizens forming the base, and layers of government such as civil servants, parliament and ministers above them, and at the apex the head of state. The effectiveness of such a political hierarchy is determined by how much power is imposed by any level on those below, and how much authority is given by the lower levels to those above.

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