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Direct democracy, cliques, informal hierarchies, "everyone is a cop" etc.

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autogestión
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Joined: 14-05-13
Dec 20 2019 00:24
Direct democracy, cliques, informal hierarchies, "everyone is a cop" etc.

Hi

I was listening to this podcast: https://soundcloud.com/whatisleftpod/unlocked-planet-of-co-ops

It has some really interesting things to say about the downsides of direct-democracy (although I warn you that the speakers do seem rather self-congratulatory and sort of "wind each other up" over the course of the podcast. It's definitely an interesting listen through.)

The relevant passage starts at about 28 minutes in.

The substance of the critique appears to be something along the lines of: direct democracies are ruled by informal cliques, demagogic charismatic speakers, etc. At least with hierarchical structures, you know who your boss is, and where the power is. In direct-democratic structures, there are still hierarchies, but they are invisible. (They don't seem to consider the possibility that these "invisible" or "illegible" hierarchies are also present in formally hierarchical organisations, or at least they seem to think that the visible hierarchy compensates or mitigates against this somehow).

I think probably a lot of you will agree with the assessment of "cooperatives within capitalism / the market", but I would be interested to see what people had to say about the critique of direct democracy specifically, since if the argument is correct then it cuts to the core of a lot of anarchist / libcom thought.

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Reddebrek
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Dec 20 2019 01:36

Aimee Terese, the twitter personality of the same name is not someone I would ever like to meet, and the amount of jargon filled nonsense that account spouts doesn't give me a good opinion of their argument skill.

"but I would be interested to see what people had to say about the critique of direct democracy specifically, since if the argument is correct then it cuts to the core of a lot of anarchist / libcom thought."

Does it? By direct democracy they seem to mean like Tyranny of Structurelessness consensus building which is narrowly aimed at a type of organising not that widely used in anarchist or libcom or adjacent circles.

If there was a style of organising that would be stereotypical to those I'd say it be ones with recallable delegates and mandates.

I see that at 28 minutes in they're saying direct democracy creates invisible hierarchy without institutions and then immediately talks about Athens.

Athenian democracy couldn't function with out its institutions, its juries, its offices of state, strict limits of term and power etc, and the orators predated the chasing out of the oligarchs and the establishment of its democratic system.

And then he talks about philosophers and rhetoricians with the philosophers supposedly being withdrawn pure intellectuals above the political discourse? Most of the philosophers who lived during the democratic era took full part in the civic life.

33 minutes in he's now describing the merits of representative democracy and named everything Athens had.

Then they're talking about the tv show survivor, and list of a lot of bad things about direct democracy that I've hard in a dozen anti-parliamentary tracts. Lord knows Presidents and council members have never gotten their position through charisma and superior networking skills...

I'm not going to continue listening, they don't seem to understand what direct democracy is.

autogestión
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Joined: 14-05-13
Dec 20 2019 02:39

I don't know anything about Aimee Terese, although its funny how she sounds exactly like Bertie from "Love" (the Netflix show) smile

Benjamin Studebaker I rate fairly highly. He has a pretty different view to me on most things, but I have read his blog for a while and I never feel like he wasn't worth the time to read.

I'm sorry if you felt your time was wasted - I appreciate you taking the time to respond, anyway.

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sherbu-kteer
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Joined: 19-08-17
Dec 21 2019 04:09

Autogestión what do you like about Studebaker and his blog? Not trying to have a go, I'm genuinely curious -- most of the stuff I've read from him is kind of generic social democrat stuff, mainly focused on getting Sanders elected. I've tried to listen to What's Left before and didn't really get much out of it, I listened to the one on anarchism and it was like the audio equivalent of waterboarding, they had no idea what they were talking about.

autogestión
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Dec 21 2019 21:04

As I said, I don't always agree with what he advocates (for a while in 2012-ish he was advocating something called Sofiarcism, the main point of which appeared to be only letting people with PhDs vote, FFS. He has deleted these articles, so I can only suppose he has changed his mind and doesn't want people to see his misguided youthful ramblings).

Anyway, I guess I would say that at times he succeeds in cutting through some bullshit in useful ways.

His discussion of the Zizek / Peterson debate would be a good example.

Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
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Dec 28 2019 09:07

I agree that cliques and informal hierarchies can corrupt direct democracy, but then again, cliques and informal hierarchies can disrupt any social decision making process. So representative democracy is not immune to this corruption, either.

There are certain rules and structures people can implement to try to combat against this corruption, such as rotating chairs, no gatekeeping of agendas, giving extra time to the voicing of minority opinions, and various other things. It won't guarantee the problem doesn't occur, but it helps.

Edit: Full disclosure, I didn't listen to the podcast.

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R Totale
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Joined: 15-02-18
Dec 28 2019 15:29

Another one who didn't and won't listen to the podcast here, this may be a very predictable contribution but since no-one else has mentioned it yet, the OP's post put me in mind of the classic "untying the knot - tyranny of structurelessness/tyranny of tyranny" debate, which may be worth a read if anyone hasn't read it, or read it ages ago and could do with a refresher.

Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
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Dec 31 2019 09:14
R Totale wrote:
Another one who didn't and won't listen to the podcast here, this may be a very predictable contribution but since no-one else has mentioned it yet, the OP's post put me in mind of the classic "untying the knot - tyranny of structurelessness/tyranny of tyranny" debate, which may be worth a read if anyone hasn't read it, or read it ages ago and could do with a refresher.

Yep, this is a good one. I second the recommend.