How did pirates’ organizational structure differ from that of law-abiding merchant ships?
On pirate ships, crewmembers democratically elected important officers, such as the captain, and enjoyed similar perquisites of crew membership. Further, power was divided among multiple officers, such as the captain and quartermaster, who checked one another’s authority. In this sense, pirates’ organizational structure was ‘flat.’ On merchantmen, in contrast, the organizational structure was much more hierarchical. The captain wielded the lion’s share of the power and the ordinary crewmembers were subjected to his largely uncontrolled authority. Authority was much more concentrated and ship-board governance mirrored governance in landed legitimate society in being much more autocratic. Why did pirates organize their activities democratically? Pirates organized their ships democratically becuase this organizational arrangement maximized profits in pirates’ particular economic context. Unlike crewmembers on merchantmen, where a very different economic context dicated a different profit-
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