Beyond patriarchy – corporate-archy

There has been much written about power and the patriarchy. However it appears that in recent times a new kind of “archy” (that which rules) has emerged.

Usually a power base is derived from “status / value” in the society and the consequent linking of power to this status. Thus in matriarchies women held highest decision-making power for the “group”, and often held power through key possessions such as property; and in patriarchies men held this power. It is interesting to note that both of these systems are generally hierarchies, with some people (men or women) holding more power and authority than others.

In order to try and understand power it is useful to recognize 6 kinds of power. These are:

Personal Power:
1.      Power based on the information a person holds
2.      Power based on the expertise a person has (skills, track record of success)
3.      Power based on the goodwill a person has generated with others (rapport, strong relationship or friendship)

Positional Power:
1.      Power based on the authority a person holds and the formal right (often based on some kind of contract) to direct others (e.g. power based on rank within a hierarchy)
2.      Power based on the control a person has over something that another wants (e.g. control of a desired reward or ownership of a possession)
3.      Power based on a persons ability to impose discipline on another (e.g. penalizing for rule violations)

It is generally recognized that the current patriarchy has been, and is, dishonoring of the feminine and the planet (environment). But is our current society really a patriarchy, or have we changed to something else?

It appears that a key test of determining if a society is in fact a patriarchy is to determine if men can exercise their apparent power to make significant changes. In other words exercise the supposed positional power they hold. Over the past few thousand years society has empowered the patriarchy. And men held power as political, military, and religious leaders, “captains of industry”, “robber barons”, and more recently oligarchs. These “patriarchs” held power and often “ruled with an iron fist”. However it appears this is changing. It is no longer the man that really holds the power, but rather the corporation. And in most senses governments, religious, industrial, and military organizations are now “corporate”. The rise of corporate power, and the ruthless action to protect corporate interests now overshadow the patriarch. Patriarchy is not what it used to be, and corporate-archy is the greater holder of power.

From the time of the industrial revolution there has been a fundamental change in how people are part of society. The industrial revolution created the basis for the current economic system and introduced the notion that men and women are “cogs in the wheel” of industry.  However the idea of mechanization, assembly lines, a preoccupation with efficiency etc. were all designed around the goal of maximum productivity for minimum input. As society adopted these notions of cheaper, faster, more selection, more profit, etc. then a new “archy” was born. This could be called production-archy (the supply side engine of the system), or consumer-archy (the demand side engine of the system), but perhaps corporate-archy is most defining of the situation.

The patriarchy has created something that in fact it can no longer control, and a new corporate-archy is in power and control of society.

The point of this is not to absolve “the masculine” of the mess that the patriarchy has created in spawning this new archy but to propose that both men and women have become more powerless in our society. It may be time to recognize that corporate institutions in our social system, have reached the stage where they have taken on characteristics of power that are self fulfilling, self perpetuating and independent of the values, needs, and best interests of either masculine or feminine aspects of humanity. When evaluating the corporate-industrial complex against the six types of power it appears that they have all six. Information is controlled by patent, expertise is controlled by proprietary corporate processes, and corporations more and more value their goodwill / customer loyalty. Authority is held by organizations through their licenses and contracts with others, they control access to rewards and hold products desired by society, and they use the courts, government, and legal system to make the rules and impose discipline.

In some ways this is not a new idea and it is fashionable to “blame industry” for many of the problems in society and concurrently “blame the patriarchy”. I am suggesting that recognizing a new self – sustaining corporate-archy as an alternative to matriarchy or patriarchy will focus the discussion on what decision making roles and controls men and women actually have, and to what extent our personal desire for cheap prices, lots of selection, and wealth make us implicit collaborators with the corporate-archy. As long as we are supporting the corporate-archy, through our purchasing (consumer confidence = consumer debt), while condemning the patriarchy, we may be distracted from the real source of power and control.


© 2010 Rick Ellis. All rights reserved.
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