Sins of a Solar Spymaster #23: Senates in Space
One of the most poorly understood aspects of nullsec warfare is the
underlying political structures which create and define an alliance.
Structured well, an alliance can survive incredible stress and bounce
back from defeat; structured poorly, an alliance will implode in drama
at the first sign of adversity. In the last few years of sifting
through the dirty laundry of just about every alliance holding space in
EVE, I've noticed that alliance structures tend to fall into four broad
Dictatorial: At the corporate level, most organizations in EVE are dictatorial, simply due to the inherent structure and absolute power of CEOship in the hard-code of the game. It's not possible to create a partnership, LLC or S-Corp in New Eden, so every corporation begins with total control in the hands of CEOs and full directors. Yet at the alliance level, dictatorial structure is the exception rather than the rule. There can be no question that a dictatorship is the easiest type of alliance to administrate and the fastest to respond to crises, but it remains rare in nullsec. Alliance dictatorships crop up when a central corporation in the alliance is far stronger than the other members. If the central corporation doesn't need the help of the other member corps to accomplish its ends, the other corporations take an ancillary, subordinate role. Some examples of this type are Goonswarm, whose 'core corp' is Goonfleet, KIA Alliance with KIA Corp as its core, and xDeathx Squad at the center of Legion of xDeathx.
Democratic: I don't know what it says about humanity or even if a broader comment can be made from what occurs in a spaceship game, but democratic alliances in EVE tend to be flaming disasters. They are rare, because most CEOs are brought up with absolute dictatorial power and the idea of voting is an alien idea to them. RISE and Knights of the Southerncross both created 'council' or 'senate' style governments, where any given governing item had to be voted on by the leaders of the group, and smaller corporations were given equal say with the larger ones, despite the differences in military reality - not unlike the modern American Senate. When the barbarians are at the gate, though, voting does not save you - leaders need to be on the field rallying their pilots, not having meetings and quibbling. When pressured by an outside force, democratic alliances in EVE do not fare well. If you find yourself shopping for a 0.0 alliance to join, stay far away from those openly advertising their shameful egalitarian sentiments.
Oligarchy: The most common form of de facto government in nullsec, oligarchies form the core of virtually every alliance. Two or more 'strong' corporations band together to form the central force of an alliance, and accrete power and military strength. Smaller corporations join them to round out the alliance, but power is not shared equally. Band of Brothers was a loose oligarchy with no 'weak' corporations hanging on; Lotka Volterra was an oligarchy formed by Shinra, M. Corp and UK Corp with sundry hangers-on. Generally, strong personal bonds will form between the leaders of the oligarch corporations, and they will informally dictate the direction of the alliance; leaders from the smaller corps will be shut out of inter-alliance decision making or military leadership.
Weak/Decentralized: If you think you may be in a decentralized alliance, run away with your assets as fast as you can. These alliances exist in the rare pockets of 0.0 where there is no political or military pressure; the flotsam of failed alliances and isk-seeking carebears find regions which are not actively under military contest and set up shop purely to settle down and make money. At the first sign of trouble, these alliances implode, not due to a failure of leadership structure, but because they had no such structure to begin with. The best examples of this class are the 'pet' alliances, those created as a rent-collecting entity by a larger entity. In rare cases, renter alliances may try to break away from their 'landlord' and become independent, such as what happened with Scorched Earth in Wicked Creek a few months ago. But because these entities had no defined leadership before becoming independent, their first halting steps are marked with either apathy or ferocious internal power struggles. Neither situation is good when faced with a military threat; the good times roll until the alliance is forced to defend itself, and then the member corps flee. Other examples of this class include Daisho Syndicate, Shadow of xDeathx, and Aggression.
So when you're looking for a place to call home in the dark places of New Eden, make sure you understand what kind of alliance you're joining. The morals of modern society will steer you towards disaster in lawless space; keep a cool head, and aim for an oligarchy or a dictatorship. You won't get a vote, but you won't lose everything you own in a war gone horribly awry.