Formalism is based on a segmented society of socio-economic classes, or classes and hierarchies within the apparatus of the state and all its bureaucracies. Desirable social progress may be hindered in societies where there is a high degree of formalism or strict adherence to prescribed complex forms of behaviour and communication. Information is passed very slowly upwards and decisions may be made inappropriately at lower levels that block or distort communications or proposals.
The classic example of obstructive formalism existed in Imperial China. All industrialized countries are to some degree or other, formalistic. Organizations and corporations may be administered in a formalistic way, although this can be disguised by formal rules for personnel to dress and act in a supposed informal manner.