The DNA of our present societal forms of organization is lost in antiquity, going back to Aristotle, Plato, and even before. However, it was Newtonian science and Cartesian philosophy which breathed life into them and fathered the concepts of hierarchical, command-and-control organizations, giving rise to the machine metaphor. That metaphor has since dominated our thinking, the nature of our organizations, and the structure of Industrial society to an extent few fully realize.
It led us to believe that the universe and everything in it, whether physical, biological, or social, could only be understood as clock-like mechanisms composed of separable parts acting upon one another with precise, linear laws of cause and effect. It maintained that if we could once understand the parts of something and the laws governing them, we could reconstruct the whole into a predictable, controllable mechanism operating in accordance with our desires.
We have, for more than three centuries, worked diligently to organize society in accordance with that concept, believing that with ever more reductionist, scientific knowledge, ever more specialization, ever more technology, ever more efficiency, ever more linear education, ever more rules and regulations, ever more command-and-control management, we could engineer societal organizations in which we could issue commands at one place and get precise results at another, and know with certainly which commands to issue for which results. Never mind that human beings must be made to behave as cogs and wheels in the process.
We have, for more than three centuries, been engineering organizations, political, commercial and social, and issuing commands in accordance with that belief. We have ignored the fact that expected results may or may not occur, but the unexpected always do. Even when we have experienced expected results, they have never been enduring. Over time, what we have gotten is all too obvious--obscene maldistribution of wealth and power, environmental devastation, and crumbling societies.
Just as Newtonian science and Cartesian philosophy were the fathers of of today's organizational concepts, the Industrial age was the mother. The unique processes of the age of hand-crafting were largely abandoned as the industrial age emerged, and replaced with machine-crafting. The renewable energy of human and animal muscle, along with rudimentary devices for capturing a bit of energy from wind and water, were replaced with engineered machines burning finite, fossil fuel.
The primacy of guilds for commercial organization and kingdoms for political organization were abandoned in favor of mechanistic, command-and-control nations, cities, corporations, and universities. In order to produce huge quantities of goods, services, knowledge, and people, those organizations amassed resources, centralized authority, routinized practices, and enforced conformity. This created a class of managers expert at reducing variability and diversity to uniform, repetitive, assembly-line processes endlessly repeated with ever increasing efficiency. Thus, the Industrial age became the age of managers.
It also became the age of the physical scientist whose primary function was to replace holistic ways of understanding with particularized, specialized knowledge through uniform, repetitive laboratory processes endlessly repeated with ever-increasing precision. In time, universities obtained an oligopoly on training, accreditation, and production of both scientists and managers.
It has led to one of those immense paradoxes of which the universe is infinitely capable. One which is having profound effect. The highest levels of management in all organizations, commercial, political, educational and social, are now formed of an interchangeable, cognitive elite with immense self-interest in preservation of existing forms of organization, and the ever-increasing concentration of power and wealth that they inevitably bring.
At the same time, those organizations are spawning an incredible array of scientific and technological innovation; immense engines of change which has created enormous diversity and complexity in the way people live, work, and play, which, in turn, requires chaordic concepts of organization that can more equitably distribute power and wealth, unshackle human ingenuity, and restore harmony between societal organizations, the human spirit, and the biosphere.
The essential thing to remember is not that we became a world of expert managers and specialists, but that the nature of our expertise became the creation and control of uniformity and efficiency, while the need has become the understanding and coordination of variability and complexity---the very process of change itself.
It is not complicated. The nature of our organizations, management, and scientific expertise is not only increasingly irrelevant to our enormous, societal and and environmental problems, it is a primary cause of them.