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For most of human history there have been two pillars of authority that affected most everyone's live; religion and government. I'm trying to come up with a concept of a third, but am struggling to think of something that has the same all-encompassing effect. Academia/Science was my initial thought, but realistically, most people are not part of it or effected by it, and even fewer historically. Maybe something involving the economy, but I'm not sure how to make that work.

So is there a third pillar of authority that I can use that would exist in tandem, but not at odds (for the most part) with the other two? I'm not sure where in my world-timeline I want to put it, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a "since the dawn of civilization" thing, but its a seed I want to plant somewhere and then see how it unfolds. Realistically I can put it anywhere and use a dark-age as a hand waving reset if I need to.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it may make sense to split this into concepts first. Religion can mean belief, devotion, and faith. Government can mean order, structure, and loyalty. What other ideals/concepts can you think of that can have purpose in society? $\endgroup$ – cyber101 Jan 24 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Most adults of active age have jobs. At work they are almost always part of a hierarchical organization which very strongly affects their lives. I would say that the hierarchy of economic organizations is a much stronger pillar of authority than religion, at least in most places in the last two or three centuries. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 24 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ To expand on cyber101's answer, I'd argue that belief is a more fundamental pillar than religion. As a non-religious individual, I believe in gravity / science / fundamental forces. This may be in a similar manner to how a religious person believes in [0,∞) god(s), but I can't say for sure because I'm not one $\endgroup$ – Punintended Jan 24 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @cyber101, thats a good thought. I've sorta been approaching this from the direction of "religion = spiritual authority, government = physical authority". Breaking it down may uncover a blank area not covered by the two. $\endgroup$ – amflare Jan 24 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ "Maybe something involving the economy [full stop]". Religion is control. Politics is power. Money is the Third Pillar of Authority because it can buy you either of those, or allow you to ignore both. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jan 25 at 3:40

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Family.
Its smaller than the others but much more important. What your elders tell you to do has historically mattered way more than what some distant monarch or priest has to say.

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  • $\begingroup$ Especially in less individualistic societies and cultures. $\endgroup$ – Jason_c_o Jan 25 at 19:21
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I propose The Media.

It's already a "third pillar" in today's society: Both church and state have to stay on their toes to avoid the dreaded "trial by media", and quite a few have embraced its power with the mantra "there's no such thing as bad publicity".

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The bourgeoisie

Those who own the means of production. Your employers.

There are plenty of examples of industrialists trying to control every aspect of the lives of their employees, to an extent that the state and the church would be jealous of. Consider, the case of George Pullman.

Historical photograph of George Pullman

Pullman was an industrialist with an elaborate moral philosophy. He built an entire town, specifically for his employees, designed to promote his ideas of a moral and healthy lifestyle. It was specifically planned to have no saloons and no vice district:

Pullman ruled the town like a feudal baron. Pullman prohibited independent newspapers, public speeches, town meetings or open discussion. His inspectors regularly entered homes to inspect for cleanliness and could terminate workers' leases on ten days' notice. The church stood empty since no approved denomination would pay rent, and no other congregation was allowed. He prohibited private charitable organizations.

All aspects of life in the town (which he named after himself) were controlled, all goods were supplied by Pullman companies and the rent was taken directly out of the paycheck.

I'm no expert in political philosophy, but I think it's not a new idea that religion, the state, and the bourgeouisie are three forces vying for control over the lives of the working class.

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Take a page from Real Life (TM):

I introduce you to, Yourself!

You've already mentioned cross & crown as the two great pillars of authority in human society for much of its history. Since the rise of humanism, during the Enlightenment, human societies have, historically, shed their reliance on the two ancient pillars. We got rid of kings and pubahs in favour of presidents and communes; authoritarian & corrupt bureaucracies have been replaced by elected bodies. And then we got rid of law and order, to an extent that is still in progress, and have determined that We the Mob will replace that pillar.

We got rid of God and the Church (in the West) and replaced them with Scientism, an entirely human religion based solely on materialism. We got rid of religion and its arcane and stifling rules and, once again, determined that We the Mob shall make our own rules and thus replace that pillar.

A quick look at social media and the nightly news shows us evidence of the action in the end stages of the game.

You have the power to make your own choices: it's all good, all things are relative, what's truth? Heck, you just make up your own truth and your own rules! You have replaced kings and presidents, gods and priests all with your own personal authority.

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  • $\begingroup$ So We the Mob gave rise to Individualism as the third pillar of authority (after various twist and turns along the way). Enough to make a fella want to embrace anarchy. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 at 7:37
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Balance isn't the real issue here, stability is.

Pretty much any group could assume the third role simply by rivaling the other two in power and influence, but this structure will likely not last long before someone get's overthrown. In order to gain stability, there needs to be mutual dependence between the three powers. Although they are often at odds with each other, they each depend on the other two in some way. There is some animosity between them, but it is in each of their best interest to ultimately protect the others. The absence of any one would leave the other two weaker, not stronger. I have listed a few ideas below.


Crime syndicate
A powerful enough crime organization (mafia style) could certainly influence the government enough to stay in power. The don't want to overthrow the government as it benefits them and the government doesn't want to stop them due to internal corruption (bribery, extortion, threats, etc.). They would face more opposition from the church, but could also have corrupted enough of the clergy to maintain their power.

Wealthy noble class
The most elite families have enough social and financial power to influence both the church and the government. They want a say in what happens, but don't want to do the governing themselves, and the church and government both depend on their funding.

The common people
The lower classes do not have nearly enough power to directly oppose the church or government, but they can easily stop production and effectively the entire economy by refusing to work. (Effectively, a massive labor union.) They depend on the government and the church for protection, infrastructure, etc. and the church and government depend on the people being happy and productive. There can also exist a council or board that represents the people to the government. (Note: they don't make laws so they are not a legislature. They simply ensure fair treatment.)

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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that in a proper democracy, the common people would be a third pillar. And, also, the wealthy merchant class that opposed the Aristocratic nobles. $\endgroup$ – Jason_c_o Jan 25 at 19:21
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Authority is merely delegated power: a condition in which a community of people determines that some person or group has the right to invoke/use the power of the community as a whole. That's as true of religion as of secular governance. religion and political leadership are legitimizations of the right to wield authority — in the first case because authority transfers from God to his chosen leaders; in the second case because military power, or elections, or wealth, or some other quality establish the right of the leader to rule.

So, any legitimization of the right to wild authority that you can dream up would work, e.g.:

  • Popularity or social media presence (as someone else mentioned)
  • Intellectual or philosophical aptitude (according to some measure)
  • Beauty, physical prowess, or some other virtue (in the ancient Greek sense)
  • Theatrical, rhetorical, or some other performative ability

Anything, in short, that one can make a semi-credible argument that the person who does this well is fit to command the power of the community as a whole. For instance, I once worked on a system in which Machiavellianism was considered the highest ideal, so hopeful leaders would spend their lives learning the arts of murder, subterfuge, domination, and intrigue.

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Society/community

This is external but can be very important. Tribal societies do indeed have great reverence for in general the society they live in. Spiritual practices are important, as are the leaders, but they will not go against their tribe/village/clan/other societal structure and said societal structure could have at least equal authority over individuals.

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The Banks.

Any sufficiently large banking concern, provided that it could pay for military protection, could form a third pillar of authority.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pretty much says it all. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jan 25 at 20:28
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Perhaps the science angle could be expanded to include an authority that had meaning to more people and including protection and conservation of nature, organic farming, healthy living, humanist ethics and protection of the world and all its systems. A Secular Naturalism.

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Maybe something that has to do with popularity//fame? Just look at how much it matters to teenagers and young adults. Influencers and celebrities greatly change the way people think. Or you could make it be involved with the nobility, if it was further back, and make them have more power over their people (like landlords and serfs).

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