I just read a new New Yorker article from Malcolm Gladwell called Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted. Because I am a Quaker and believe strongly in equality and egalitarianism, I wanted to argue with something he writes:
"Because networks don't have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can't think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?"
And then he writes:
"But if you're taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy."
No they don't! Do they?
I'm reading Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship right now (20 pages per week, recording it for MN State Services for the Blind) and as I reflected on Gladwell's article, I realized that all of the examples in that book of how a few individual Friends were the driving force behind the social change attributed to Quakers are all examples that support Gladwell's thesis about hierarchy.
He says that non-hierarchical groups are much better at reinforcing the status quo than making social change, and that only a strong structure, strong leaders and close connections can create the conditions for social change. The examples in Fit for Freedom of individual Friends working on social justice are all examples of strong leadership and close connections. The examples of an organization doing good work involve strong structure and strong, bold leadership (like AFSC). And there are a lot of examples where our more egalitarian structure favors the status quo.
So I bring this question to you all on Quaker Quaker. Can you cite examples in history that invalidate or at least challenge Gladwell's thesis?