Authority: What’s it good for

Authority is not always a bad thing. Meaning its mere existence is what has made human cooperation and civilization feasible.

Why is that? Merely because it prevents panic, it creates a meritocracy on the spot that puts the most confident, presumably also the most competent, person in charge of affairs. As humans who feel lack of confidence won’t take action, just like CPR in public.

Of course family and the authority of the patriarch also helps, on a cellular basis for self organization, but civilizations don’t have patriarchs standing on the corner all the time telling their clans what to do. That’s not modern civilization, at least not modern Western civilization.

From my experience, most people won’t step up and take a leadership position in a crowd of strangers or people they don’t know. Especially if they have doubts about their own power or ability. They will gladly step up and do a job, such as call 911 or perform CPR, but only when someone in their face tells them, “you, I need you to do X”. When it is phrased in the minds of people that “someone should call 911” or “should needs to perform CPR”, then No One does.


Often the cultural, social, and legal forms for wives and husbands designated the man as the leader, as the authority, because someone has to be the leader. There can’t be two co equal leaders always arguing about the same thing, that would ignite warfare. As it already has in the West, between the sexes. In matriarchies, the woman was the leader. But in no human society has there ever been a case where two people have equal responsibilities and equal authority, who didn’t try to kill each other eventually to figure out who the top dog was.

Explore posts in the same categories: Psychology

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