The Self-Reinforcing Nature of Social Hierarchy: Origins and Consequences of Power and Status
37 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
Hierarchy is such a defining feature of organizations that its forms and basic functions are often taken for granted in organizational research. In this chapter, we revisit some basic sociological and psychological elements of hierarchy to explain why hierarchy is so pervasive across groups and organizations. We argue that status and power are two distinct and important bases of hierarchical differentiation, and we integrate a number of different literatures to explain why status and power hierarchies tend to be self-reinforcing. Power, related to one's control over valued resources, transforms individuals psychologically such that they think and act in ways that lead to the acquisition and retention of power. Status, related to the respect one has in the eyes of others, generates expectations for behavior that favor those with a prior status advantage.
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