Heterarchy: Exploiting Ambiguity and Organizing Diversity

Vol. 21 No. 1 (2001)

Jan-Mar / 2001
Published January 1, 2001

How to Cite

Stark, David. 2001. “Heterarchy: Exploiting Ambiguity and Organizing Diversity”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 21 (1):22-41. https://doi.org/10.1590/0101-31572001-1248.

Heterarchy: Exploiting Ambiguity and Organizing Diversity

David Stark
Chair and Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Department of Sociology, Columbia University, New York/NY, United States of America.
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 21 No. 1 (2001), Jan-Mar / 2001, Pages 22-41


This paper explores the concept of heterarchy as an organizational form that is an alternative to hierarchies and markets. Heterarchies are characterized by lateral accountability and multiple organizing principles, or in different terms, by distributed intelligence and the organization of diversity. Empirical materials are drawn from the contemporary Hungarian economy where firms operate in an environment of institutional uncertainty. An analysis of the ownership structure of the largest 200 firms and the top 25 banks identifies distinctive network properties created by ties of inter-organizational ownership. Heterarchy contributes to flexibility; but the interweaving of multiple logics of justification poses new problems of accountability.

JEL Classification: D23; P26.

Keywords: Heterarchy transitional economy private property