Enabling Structure

In the early 1970s, feminist political scientist Jo Freeman wrote a paper intended for her sisters in the women’s liberation movement whose main message was neatly captured by its title: “The Tyranny of Structurelessness.”1 Freeman pointed out that feminist groups were not impeded by the excessive hierarchy and bureaucracy that often characterize enterprises created and managed mainly by men. But if women’s groups had successfully avoided those dysfunctions, then why did they not have a better record of getting things done, of achieving the purposes to which their members were so deeply committed? The answer, Freeman suggested, was that having no structure can be every bit as debilitating as having too much. In her view, ...

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