The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Hard Problem of Leadership: Scale and Good Leaders

This Post is by Purple Library Guy, aka Rufus Polson

Ian – this is elevated from the comments on my post, “The Hard Problem of Leadership.The problems of leadership are scaling (for example, Athenian style direct democracy doesn’t scale, nor do city states), and selecting good leaders.

I have thought about this problem a lot. As a leftist, I come at it largely from noticing the two main strands of left wing thought–the relatively centralized state-oriented socialist strand, and the anarchist variety with its tendency to decentralized direct democracy. Both have fundamental problems of leadership.

But I have concluded that the distinction between the kind of leadership problem which is all about crappy leaders, and the kind of leadership problem wherein the governance doesn’t scale, are not mirror images. They are fundamentally different in kind. And what I have concluded is that the first kind of problem is insoluble: it is essential to any kind of large polity with powerful individual or small group leadership. It comes from the creation of a distinction between rulers and ruled, which results in the rulers having different interests, attitudes and culture, and information from the ruled. Almost inevitably they rule for the rulers (generally including some technocratic group that participates in rulership) rather than for the citizens. Furthermore, just because any civilization is made up mostly of the people, not the rulers, inevitably the rulers’ self-dealing and ignorance about the situation lower down are bad for the polity’s health and will pile up what Marx called “contradictions”. I could argue this at length, but for this discussion I’ll just assume it; I would like to note that individual leaders CAN occasionally resist all these factors and do good things, it’s just really bloody rare and tends to require major popular pressure to also exist. There are just mighty damn few Hugo Chaveses.

But the second kind, the problem that systems along the lines of direct democracy do not scale, is NOT insoluble. It’s a technical problem. And it’s a technical problem which has confronted hierarchical systems as well–they’ve just solved it better. This may be partly because solving this problem for direct-democratic, relatively leaderless systems is harder. It is probably also just that there has been a lot more work put into solving the problem for hierarchies. Just in the time I’ve been alive, organizations have gotten a lot better at doing hierarchy, allowing bigger transnational corporations, incredibly complex “project management” with special software assisting the processes, sophisticated communication technologies and so on. There are masses of software products for helping hierarchies organize, endless “business schools” dedicated to researching and teaching people how to effectively dominate subordinates and make large hierarchies effective, and so on and on.

But in a broad sense, many of these technologies would also be useful for creating a non-hierarchical, direct democratic organization that scaled. I have in fact figured out how to do it.

Before I describe it I’d like to talk briefly about why failing to scale is in fact a crippling problem. There are two reasons. The most important is, if you have a governance type that does not scale and you are opposed by a governance type that does scale, you lose. There’s no point in having lots of lovely little societies which then get assimilated by the Borg, or the Romans, or whoever else out-organized you. The second is that there are actually things that a large organization can do that are useful that a bunch of little ones can’t. For instance, there’s standards: Imagine you have a group of 30 anarchist towns, and they all use different railway gauges and electrical plugs and USB-like-thingies and http protocols. Besides that, there are projects that people might want to do which require mobilizing a lot of resources, like big bridges, or long railways that don’t break off at every town that decided they didn’t want to bother, or space exploration, or co-ordinated action against climate change. But really, the key problem is that decentralized small-scale organizations get eaten by large scale organizations. Anarchists know it’s true, they just can’t hack the leadership problems of centralized socialism so they pretend (centralized socialists know the anarchist critique of socialist leadership issues is true, but they want to win, dammit, so they pretend too).

So, how do you do it? How do you scale direct democracy and break the “iron law of oligarchy” and so on? Well, the fundamental problem with direct democracy as it gets larger scale is that of information/decision overload–people can’t be involved with all the decisions, there are too many. But consider that this is a problem with autocratic/oligarchic rule as well–one man at the top cannot possibly be involved in all decisions all the way to the bottom of the pyramid. There have been an amazing number of schemes dedicated to allowing the general will of rulers to be transmitted, so that all the little individual decisions follow that general will without the rulers having to pay attention to them. None have been perfect, hence the phenomenon of micromanagement and the tendency of organizations to subvert the intent of particularly annoying management decisions. But they work pretty effectively.

I have a group of ideas and principles for getting past this problem. The first is to separate the idea of any given person actually being involved in every decision from their right to be involved in that decision. In my scheme, most people aren’t involved in most decisions–but they could be if they wanted to, so if some group is making a decision that affects a lot of people and pisses them off, they can join that decision-making group and contribute to making that decision different.

The second is distributed, nested decision making and the principle that bigger groups’ decisions trump littler groups’ decisions. So, say there’s a group of people who work in a salmon hatchery on some stream. They’ve got a little decision making group for deciding how to run the salmon hatchery–but note that anyone can join it, they don’t HAVE to be working at the salmon hatchery. There is a broader group that is a decision making group about how to do things about the stream; it has sub-groups like the hatchery group, the sport fishing group, the marina association and stuff. There is a broader group than that for the whole regional watershed. OK, so, say the sport fishing group is deciding to allow some practice which is going to be a problem for the salmon spawning. The majority vote in that group is to allow that practice. But! A minority can vote to kick it upstairs; if say 30% or something think that this decision shouldn’t be made just by the sport fishing people, the proposal gets moved to the stream group–all the subgroups will now see the issue and vote on it. If the stream group think it’s too hot to handle it can get moved to the watershed group. So a vote by the stream group would overrule a vote by just the hatchery group, and a vote by the whole watershed group would overrule a vote by the stream group. Ultimately, a vote by the whole country overrules everything smaller. This turns on its head the autocratic approach in which decisions by smaller groups higher up overrule larger groups lower down.

Related to this, my approach suggests that in general, people should be expected to serve in a few decision making groups, and groups should generally have a few people randomly assigned to them by lot, like jury duty. This helps prevent little closed groups from getting insular about their decisions.

My approach requires substantial use of modern communications technology and software to help decisions get made. This allows for various factors that make even theoretically democratic organization turn oligarchic to be eliminated. Specifically, it escapes the agenda and the ability of someone to literally set the agenda, to define just what decisions get made and how they are framed. So the process at the level of a decision making group goes like this: Someone in the group identifies an issue that needs to be decided on. They submit an issue description and maybe a couple of possible decisions that could get made about it, to the group. A timer starts. There is a conversation thread about the issue, and anyone in the group can add decision options, so you end up with a few proposals of action that could be taken. When the time is up, the proposals are frozen and people can vote (also with a time limit). The vote is some kind of ranked choice setup, and the winning proposal is adopted. This avoids a problem often seen in US state-level voting on issues, where some group gets to carefully define a proposed solution, and you end up either getting their self-serving solution or you get nothing, so whatever issue isn’t dealt with at all. With this kind of software a decision making group needs no leader–anyone can initiate proposals, nobody can control an issue once it is raised. The software doesn’t currently exist, but lots of social software of equivalent or greater complexity does–it shouldn’t be that hard.

With this, it should be possible to have an organization in which small scale or specialized decisions get made at the small scale, but rarer, broader decisions to mobilize social resources on a larger scale can be made by larger groups, with no hierarchies, leadership or class structure required.


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The Hard Problem of Leadership


Iran’s Likely Response To The Attack On Their Embassy


  1. DMC

    Have a look at John Muir’s “The Velvet Monkey Wrench(1972) in which he proposes a system of government based on direct democracy, where the fundamental unit of organization is the Neighborhood, composed of 500-1500 people, who elect a council to manage all aspects of said Neighborhood and to send one of their number to Council, the unit composed of Neighborhoods, which in turn sends a member to Regional, which appoint some of their members to Central, which takes care of National defense and Foreign relations. Muir says the point of Government should be “to find out what the People want and then helping them get it”. He anticipates a surprising number of current developments in that he describes a future which is, above all, NETWORKED. He conceives of how you live as being a function of where you live, as Neighborhoods can have pretty much any laws(Muir uses the term Customs) they want but are obliged to post anything unusual at the points of entry. On the Neighborhood level, you can have literally any kind governance or policy. Nazis, Maoists, Monarchists, you name it. Someplace for EVERYBODY. Rather than a constitution, there’s a set of fundamental Customs that apply to everyone, everywhere and agreement with which are what allow any given extra-national polity to “come in”. Muir envisions his Republic of North America as being comprised of the current USA, Canada, and as much of Mexico and Central America wanted in.

  2. elkern

    I appreciate the effort you have put into this, PLG. Your core concept seems similar to my vague musings on the subject, which I might describe as “Fractal Federalism”: a structure for governance based on a single set of rules about the relationship between each node of decision-making and the ones “above” and “below” it. Sorry to say, I don’t have good ideas for what those rules should be…

    I like your idea, but frankly, I’m pretty sure it would work very poorly in the Real World. Have you ever attended a Town Council meeting? Or a large Green Party meeting? Or any non-hierarchical group trying to make decisions? In my experience, situations like that tend to attract people who are very good at (unintentionally!) undermining the process.

    Crudely put, Idiots (ignorant of the issues at hand, and unaware of their own ignorance) make it really hard for a group to succeed in making decisions; and Jerks (sometimes competent, sometimes not) make the process so unpleasant that “normal” people just bail, leaving the Jerks to their pissing contest.

    Hierarchies *work*, because they give someone the power to keep the Idiots and Jerks out of the process. OTOH, Jerks tend to dominate Hierarchies – which gets us back to the problem that Ian posed in the original piece!

  3. Purple Library Guy

    DMC, in my opinion all those “the local group sends a representative to the higher group which sends a representative to the still-higher group, and so on to the top group” schemes inherit all the problems with representative democracy only worse. The most notable examples of that kind of schema today are very big, corrupt labour unions. The result of such approaches is that the top leadership are in control and actual people have NO direct relationship with them, since there are layers of management between them and the top. This makes corrupt, distant leaders nearly impossible to dislodge; it is notable that the UAW only started doing useful things again after the courts imposed more traditional direct elections for its top leadership.

    My idea was conceived almost explicitly in opposition to some such ideas on the left; this “soviet of soviets” approach keeps coming up again and again, and it sucks.

    As to Muir’s idea of, basically, a US that gets to annex Canada, it’s a frequent fantasy of Americans and he can shove it.

    Now while I don’t think the localism at the ideological heart of Muir’s ideas as you describe them would end up being at the organizational heart of the results if his ideas were put into practice, I also think that localism as a building block for decision making needs to be . . . optional. The local is genuinely important, and people should be able to organize locally, but in a networked world lots of nonlocal things are also important and people need to be able to organize nonlocally where that is useful. This is why my proposed system doesn’t really impose geographical constraints–anyone can start a decision-making group, and it fundamentally exists on the net. So you could have a “local” group which is about setting standards for word processing document formats, which might have members from around the whole polity, however big that was. The main restriction is that a group needs to be within the nesting system, has to be created within one of the umbrella groups–and the umbrella group could hold a vote to shut a subgroup down, if for instance they think it’s duplicating existing stuff.

  4. Swamp Yankee

    Thanks for the interesting post. This is tangential to its main point perhaps, but I did want to note that the New England Town, with an Open Town Meeting form of government, are direct democracies, in which any registered voter is a member of the legislative branch of the municipal legislature, the Town Meeting. I am a big defender of this system, inasmuch as it gives average citizens the ability to do things that only an elected city councilor would do elsewhere (e.g., bring and amend motions from the floor, stop the meeting for violations of the rules of order, vote to close (or keep open) debate, etc.

    With that said, it does have problems, which is that rates of participation are really, really low (this is also true for elected city and town councils, too; local voter participation rates hover around 15% nationwide). So you have people who are older, richer, and whiter than the general population making the decisions, which leads to obvious contradictions, to use the term above. I think we need dedicated childcare to get young families to Town Meeting, which has been done in the past; Vermont has made Town Meeting Day a public holiday, which we should do here in Massachusetts.

    Of course, we need, as this post suggests, the state government — the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — to do certain things each Town cannot (like promulgate uniform regulations across the state, etc.) Even the Town Meeting system itself is held under a uniform, state-wide statute concerning municipal governance.

    The problem with scaling direct democracy really is an extremely difficult one; thanks for bringing attention to it; I think about it often.

  5. Carborundum

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) I think there’s an implicit mis-specification running around here. A lot of the disfunction that we are seeing is due to poor, trending to non-existent execution. “Leaders” faff about making ever more dramatic pronouncements that *sound* like they will have significant impact and accrete power to said leader, but actually don’t change things as much as one would think down at the coal face – if they get enacted at all. Observers (and particularly commentators) believe leader pronouncements have material impact, but that’s really more of an artifact of what they can absorb. Most people have absolutely no idea why things work or don’t, they only regurgitate what others have told them and bad leaders make wonderful narrative devices for commentators wanting to thrive in the dopamine economy.

    2) I would not make the assumption that organizations have gotten a lot better at hierarchy and that technology is a key enabler. Yes, things are bigger, but holy hell are they dumber. Just because the leader at the apex, way, way into reach-back territory can get me on the phone, it does not mean he knows what the heck is going on or that his best course of action isn’t to let me develop the situation. Similarly I look at a lot of project management and I see people creating complexity so they can manage it. If we’ve become so awesome at managing projects, why are so many of them so fragile and prone to cascading asymmetric delay? If we’re great practitioners of hierarchy, why is it every time I deal with a new organization no one really knows what the heck the people above them want them to do?

    3) Having a systemic bias where up-hierarchy big groups trump down-hierarchy small groups seems to me to be a recipe for disfunction. The high performing groups that I have been part of (which did function at considerable geographic scale over quite a hierarchical range) were actually all biased exactly the opposite way and that was essential to their functioning. The current disfunction is to a significant extent a consequence of gridlock – this sounds to me like an iron-clad guarantee of more. (Parenthetically, I would love – and I mean *love* – to run IO against this type of system.) Weakly empowered groups of deliberately selected dipshits placed up-hierarchy are already causing enough trouble, I can’t imagine what formally empowered self-selecting randos could achieve.

    tldr; Leadership is not our biggest problem. Absolutely the best storyline, but definitely not the biggest problem.

  6. bruce wilder

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

    Do the ruled expect to be ruled via rules? Does “fair” mean anything?

    Hierarchy furnishes arbitration of conflicting claims. On what evolving basis is the course of democratic emergence or degeneracy. Right v privilege and all that.

    My personal experience of anarchy is that it is rude and frequently obnoxious. But is it “fair” in some sense? What sense?

    genuine question

  7. Purple Library Guy

    elkern, your point about jerks hijacking the process is important. And I’m not gonna say I’m sure my approach is bulletproof–it’s never been tried, how can I know? But this is actually one reason I don’t emphasize the in person meeting, I do emphasize built-in time limits to decision processes, and I don’t use a consensus model with the existence of “blocking” votes.

    In-person meetings can be very good, and I won’t say that in my model nobody would ever have them. But they’d be more exploratory or social–for chat, brainstorming possibilities, getting to know people. When it comes to making decisions and holding votes, I have noticed that in-person meetings are very vulnerable to people with big social presence, who think on their feet, are loud and so on, as well as to people with a strong grasp of the complex procedures used to govern the meeting. Time is TOO restricted–it’s not possible to consider all points, all options; you end up with the basic proposals put forward by whoever is running the meeting, plus a couple amendments raised by the pushiest and trickiest attendees, which if they’re clever enough may radically transform what was originally proposed, and whatever you end up with gets an up/down vote. So, no actual decision making at in-person meetings.

    If there is no time limit at all, it’s easy for jerks to just talk everyone to death, always object whenever someone wants to put a proposal to the vote (that isn’t theirs, or contains options they don’t like that they can see might do well in the vote) and generally keep the process meandering until people give up. You see that in attempts to use email lists or Facebook to make actual decisions–there is no real end point and arguments go round and round and then meander off course.

    Consensus models suck. All it takes is one asshole and you never get anything done again. Many radical groups that went with a consensus model because it sounded so progressive were hamstrung by it.

    I also think up/down votes are problematic. Very often what happens is, whoever advances the proposal to be voted on gets to frame the issue, and they get to play the “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done!” card. Again, it tends to play to the advantage of the pushy and the jerks.

    So I have given some thought to the jerk question. My decision making setup uses internet software to structure it so that no person, who could be a jerk, controls any agenda or can act as gatekeeper. Anybody can start a proposal going, and they don’t need to stand up in a room full of people to do it. Proposals are about issues not single solutions, so it’s harder for the initiator to control the results. So, again, the initial proposal is put forward, maybe with a proposed solution or even more than one, but anyone can propose alternative actions on the issue, and they all get a space on the ballot when the vote comes. That allows everyone an equal chance to shape how the issue is approached. There is a time limit built in, probably in the week-or-two range, so people have some time to think and consider ideas, but nobody can rag the puck forever. This also puts a limit on just how useful it is to annoy everyone with endless posts on the topic because at the end of the day (or week) someone can have yacked as much as they want but the vote’s gonna come and show who’s just loud and who has actual support. Finally, the vote is a ranked ballot because that’s a good way of choosing between multiple alternatives, and there is no provision for consensus because consensus models suck and are massive enablers of jerky obstructionist behaviour.

    On top of that, if some group does end up turning poisonous, it is difficult for them to become gatekeepers, because if they cause problems for other people there are various ways to nullify them–getting more people to join, having larger groups they are part of countermand their decisions and so on.

    So overall, I have tried to minimize the scope for a few jerks to hijack the process while enabling participation from beyond just a socially dominant few. But, again, I can’t say for sure if it would actually work, let alone actually work in a setting where the FBI would send in agents provocateurs.

    As a side note, there is software in existence which is intended to do stuff a bit like what I have in mind. It doesn’t allow the nested groups and as far as I know it does up/down votes on proposals, but it is a setup that allows anyone in a group to make a proposal, have a threaded conversation about it, and then after a time limit has elapsed have a vote. The software is open source, but the main writers who sell basically support and hosting for it are called; they’re from New Zealand and came out of the Occupy movement there. It seems like it works fairly well to let small organizations operate in an egalitarian way. So, a little support there for the idea that such a setup could work.

  8. capelin

    We’re being pretty whiteish-centric here. There’s multitudes of societies (perhaps the majority ever) in the Americas, Africa, etc, that were goin’ along fine till Gringos with gunpowder came along. (Simplistic version).

    Not to say they were all perfect; but to say that at this stage maybe we need to deal with the gunpowder thing, and let the goventance thing revert/ work itself out.

    @ bruce wilder (previous post)

    “Good small-scale organization requires large-scale organization of the social and political ecology. The psychopaths subvert the large-scale organization, which is often beyond the ken of the citizen and beyond the ability of democratic movements to comprehend and affect.”

    I guess we’re partly up against the “hard” limits of effective human social groupings, ala Jane Jacobs. “World” governance may be wtf? to parts of our brain, something evolution has not caught up with.

    @PLG “Ultimately, a vote by the whole country overrules everything smaller. ”

    No mention of an accountability process for descisions made, and it concentrates power UP, especially as people figure out how to game it. Stack the higher-levels groups, make sure there’s enough discourd in the lower groups to punt things upwards as needed – done.

    Imposing a massive novel governance intervention with centralized data control points – as a way to solve a human nature/societal/gunpowder problem…

    It’s a tough nut to crack, thousands have tried. Yours is good run at it, thank you.

  9. Jan Wiklund

    Your problem seems to be a replica of the problem of the states. We have Neoliberal states who think it is a Sin to touch economy and production, we have, or had, Stalinist states who thought the state should do everything (and turned themselves into a bottleneck), and we had the others who didn’t have a name for themselves but which Brazilian ex-minister Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira has called developmentalist, Which meant roughly that they took initiatives, also in economy and production, but left much of the execution to others.

    That may be a good style of leadership even for political movements. People must be able to take their own initiatives, or they will be bored to (political) death. But there should be organizational focuses that are expected to take initiatives.

    Low-level, ordinary activists take amazing initiatives now and then, but these initiatives are costly, and for that reason not common. They have immense difficulties to get through. In the best of worlds there are infrastructures that give vent to them, and also amplifiers that are expected to be amplifiers.

    In the early 20th century we for too long tolerated top-down bottleneck organizations where nothing could be done that hadn’t come from the General Secretary. That was bad.

    But now we have for too long tolerated the neoliberal, buffet kind of movements where everything is a market place of ideas that anyone can do what he pleases with – for example in World Social Forum where it has been absolutely Forbidden to take common initiatives.

    But now it seems that at least WSF has taken Bresser-Pereira’s idea into their minds! It is now permitted to organize caucuses within WSF which are binding for those who take part. It is called World Assembly of Struggles and Resistance of the WSF. It took years for them to agree on it. But now it’s there, and it is possible to organize globally.

    It remains to organize that way at other levels!

  10. Purple Library Guy

    @capelin To stack a higher level group, you’d have to stack all the little groups, and you would by definition deserve to win because that would be the democratic outcome. The thing about the higher level groups I maybe didn’t communicate well enough is that they aren’t symbolic–their membership is LITERALLY the membership of all their subgroups. The top level is LITERALLY a vote of the whole country, like a referendum. So yes, it concentrates power UP–to the whole citizenry. That’s the point.

    The higher level groups in effect only exist to deal with what comes to them from their subgroups–all proposals originate at the bottom level and only become something for a wider group to consider if the low level group decides to push them there. Some proposals would probably be intended from the start to go higher, but if the rest of the group didn’t think they were important enough, they wouldn’t. This could result in big issues getting “decided” at a low level–but that decision wouldn’t be binding if a bigger, broader vote countered it. Of course, if it was a good and uncontroversial decision, then sure, it would probably stick–little groups CAN make important decisions, and if the little group has most of the specialized nerds that are interested in that stuff, and nobody notices a downside,

    This also means that people will start to get pissed off if your group regularly kicks stuff higher for inadequate reasons, because it makes more work for them that they will figure you ought to be bloody taking care of. Little groups of people in a key “small” group could make themselves very unpopular that way; sooner or later a bunch of people would join that little group just to override them. Top-level votes are supposed to be pretty rare, and I presume that one thing that would get voted on occasionally is that people would tweak the percentage needed to push things up, to try to get it to where it happened enough for important things to get done but not so much as to drown people in crap.

    Incidentally, I am provisionally calling this setup “The Archadian model” because after working it out I wrote a science fiction novel in which a country called Archadia that uses this approach is invaded by an imperialist capitalist representative democracy. I should really come up with a nice “ism” word for it, though.

  11. Purple Library Guy

    Oops, let a sentence trail off. Should have said “and if the little group has most of the specialized nerds that are interested in that stuff, and nobody notices a downside, then the decision was made and that’s fine.”

  12. capelin

    “… their membership is LITERALLY the membership of all their subgroups. The top level is LITERALLY a vote of the whole country, like a referendum. So yes, it concentrates power UP–to the whole citizenry. That’s the point.”

    The theory makes more sense with the clarification. The disconnect and unwieldiness of moving a small issue upwards, pretty quickly into referendum territory, would be an incentive to deal with it a lower level, but legitimately larger issues could rise, etc.

    Still – no accountability mechanism, and an e-backbone.

    Also, and I just thought of this – who gets to decide jurisdiction on an issue? What if the “international trade” group decides it wants to turn the watershed into an LNG port? The watershed group is outgunned from the get go.

    “Consensus models suck. All it takes is one asshole and you never get anything done again.”

    They don’t have to suck. It’s an approach as much as an absolute. The chair (or floor) can call for a vote if impasse is reached, but in the meantime most things turn out better; it’s a better end product.

    I used to know Robert’s Rules good enough to swing it, and there’s a place for that, especially in societies that don’t know how to speak – OR listen – in a group, and need to be herded.

    But sit in on a Native speaking circle – goes around clockwise, everyone gets a turn, speak as long as you need, no one interrupts, comes back around to the “chair” by which time it’s either resolved or it goes around again. So freaking simple, and effective. Knowing you won’t be interrupted changes the whole thing. Having the floor, with people actually listening is a place of honour, so you don’t hog it.

    But sit 5 normies in a circle with those instructions and they won’t make it past the 2nd speaker without interrupting. Repeatedly. It’s outside their experience.

    Again, tech is an important tool in governance, but it doesn’t fix a society that can’t even sit in a circle and listen.

    I was at a few Occupy meetings, and they used a sort of version of RRO-lite, but votes/feedback/applause/yes being done silently = raise your arms and wave/shake them. So it was quick. To see a room of two hundred people crank through several big decisions in a quasi-consensus way in an hour was impressive.

  13. Jan Wiklund

    Capelin: It is not about the perfect meeting rules. It is about the ability to get things done. About people forming into a collectivity that lasts. Not just through the meeting, or for a few days, but for years.

    So far we are stuck in a neo-liberal idea about the flat organization. It is like the neo-liberal idea of a flat world, where “anyone” can do tings. But in reality, in a flat world without structures only the billionaires can make decisions.

    Movements must have structures that make decisions effective and binding. The old, early 20th century model wasn’t good enough. But the model – or lack of model – we have today isn’t good either. More about why on

  14. witters

    Polson’s position – whether he knows it or not – can be traced back to the seminal work on “Demarchy” by the Australian philosopher, John Burnheim who thought all this through in the mid 80’s (my first academic publication was an essay on John’s views in Economy and Society way back then.)

    The link for a intro to his account follows:

  15. capelin

    @ Jan Wiklund

    Yes for sure, it’s an order of magnitude more difficult to govern than it is to protest, and it’s a bar most movements fail to clear, even conceptually.

    What was interesting about Occupy was that they were fairly explicit that they weren’t attempting governance, but to move the overton window, which I think they accomplished, ie, “the 1 %” is used widely.

    Touch nut to crack.

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