Societies, of course, are not always bad. Societies facilitate uniformity of purpose and action, and so the military comprises a rigid set of hierarchies. But rigidity and authority are antithetical to creativity, to innovation. Some in the military have recognized the critical value of creativity, and so our better military leaders circumvent the social structure by listening carefully to the 'grunts' on the ground. Currently in Iraq & Afghanistan, US strategy is being rapidly re-written to accommodate the insights and innovations coming out of the lower level men & women doing the fighting. You can't imagine this sort of thing happening in a typical society. The blue bloods would hardly ask opinions of the working class on any important matter.

Inclusion of opinions is typical of communities, not societies. That inclusiveness facilitates-- actually requires, to some extent-- a democratic approach. So communities tend to be self-organizing, inclusive, and tolerant. In contrast, societies are organized top-down, are exclusive and are overwhelmingly-- the preceding insights from the military withstanding-- intolerant.

Think about it: if a group agrees that only the people at the top are important, then everyone should want to be at the top. How then do those at the top keep out the 'great unwashed'? Through exclusivity. 

Through intolerance.

Those at the top go through great lengths to keep out the hoi polloi. Intolerance is one of the hallmarks of the society; society types will not tolerate any egalitarian interaction with the 'lower' classes. But much more damaging, they will not tolerate the ideas and contributions from anyone they consider to be their 'inferiors'. In America, where creativity and innovation originate from all classes, we immediately see the problems with that approach.

And most important to understanding how one destroys innovation, in a society the exclusive hierarchy is maintained by ridicule. A critical distinction between communities and societies involves the character of the humor. In a community, humor is gentle, inclusive, and frequently self-deprecatory. In a society, humor is caustic, exclusionary, directed at others-- and humiliating. 

It's supposed to be. Humiliation insures that when someone from the 'lower' classes attempts to 'move up' she will encounter innumerable codes and customs blocking her way, things that the less connected and less affluent have neither the time nor the training to master. At the first misstep, she will be scathingly ridiculed, 'put in her place,' given her 'comeuppance'. By holding others down, those at the top of a society maintain their positions.

The culture of ridicule that supports the society is absolutely devastating to innovation. New ideas are fragile things, and still comprise many flaws and obstacles that will need to be worked through. Humiliating the person suggesting these delicate first steps is a sure way to prevent any further steps, to discourage others from suggesting new ideas, and thereby, to prevent a culture of innovation.

So societies contain the seeds of their destruction: they must exclude the great majority, and so they must exclude the great majority of new ideas and innovations. History is filled with examples of old hereditary regimes that crumble slowly from the inside, refusing to respond to new challenges and opportunities, refusing to listen to any advice, however sage, that does not originate within the privileged classes. We often praise successful revolutions, and glorify the people who lead them. But as the economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, "All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door." Societies crumble, because they refuse to recognize any new reality or possibility, however urgent, if it challenges the privilege of those at the top.