Re: Formal Consensus vs Sociocracy
From: eileen mccourt (emccourtCHARTER.NET)
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2007 15:32:26 -0700 (PDT)
I'm having a hard time telling who is who here, but I will comment anyway!
I will also pick up the thread on CT Butler.  We use a version of CT Butler
(evaluating blocks for validity), but I think Tree's implementation is more
flexible and respectful, as it requires a serious discussion of a block and
a decision IN THE MOMENT how to deal with the block, made by those who are
not blocking, and the method of deciding depends on the situation.  Having
decided ahead of time how many blocks are necessary for a full block to me
is more like voting, and doesn't promote understanding.  But it is very true
that having the option of evaluating a block does preclude it from happening
in most cases, and I have to say I think that's a good thing.  

Not all individual desires can be accommodated.  What seems askew in Brian's
analysis though is the assumption that giving the community the right to
evaluate a block is equivalent to majority rule.  I think (maybe naively) if
an individual desire really does appeal to the broader community, or if a
good rationale can be made as to why one person should have the freedom to
do a certain thing, it will ultimately get through the process to everyone's
satisfaction.  It's just that most people don't want to go through that
level of discussion - more's the pity.  Things change, as Sharon said, and
just as you may lose something you were attached to, so may something you
want but has been turned away be more acceptable at another time.

I have trouble distinguishing Sociocracy from Consensus.  To me these labels
create one more level of discourse to argue about (and here I am!) instead
of talking about the variety of ways that we can use to come to agreement
that meets individual freedom and community needs as much as possible.  It
cannot be perfect, but all of these ideas are strategies for coming to
agreement.  That seems to be getting lost somewhere in the discussion, or
maybe my assumption about purpose of these strategies is not shared.

Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons Cohousing
Paso Robes, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian Bartholomew [mailto:bb [at]] 
Sent: Sunday, April 01, 2007 1:59 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]; sociocracy [at]
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Formal Consensus vs Sociocracy

Maggie Dutton <mdutton [at]> writes:

> picture a large manufacturer of Europe somewhere (I
> forget where).  They produce buses for 40% less than the
> competition, have 1800 employees and do this with only 9 management
> level people. Somehow the top circle must be communicating the
> organizations aims in a way that people understand, support and work
> towards...whatever other differences they must have.  Competing aims
> often means another circle needs to be formed...or the decision
> needs to be resolved at the next higher circle.

I would find it easy to believe that Sociocracy could be better than
whatever soviet-type system Europe chooses to impose on larger
companies.  That's a pretty low bar.  The real competition is between
Sociocracy and ALL other arrangements that might arise in the absence
of particular ones being legally imposed.


> it seems as though you are skeptical that there could be anything
> that would work and your expectation is that there are no workable
> solutions...but what if there was?

If there was, then analysis of it would be able to demonstrate how
existing theories about systems of political power were incorrect,
incomplete, or did not apply.  At a minimum, it would have to address
these theories:

If Sociocracy is to be an improvement in national politics, it must
successfully address the above problems at their full strength.
Sociocracy must still function in situations completely lacking in
shared aims or good faith, where some of the participants are outright
sociopaths bent on mass murder.  Would Sociocracy have restrained
Hitler, or the German people who voted to give him total power?


> Have you ever experienced a Sociocratic meeting?  There is no
> blocking. It is possible that you would find a real feeling of
> equivalence.  Many of us were drawn to Sociocracy for just that
> reason...not feeling that your paramount objection was welcome.  In
> Sociocracy, if you can explain to the group why you would be unable
> to work toward the aims if the policy was approved, your perspective
> will be included or the proposal will not go forward.  I didn't
> trust this at first...but I do now.

I have not experienced a Sociocratic meeting.  I have experienced
consensus meetings where I was heard, and my intention to build my
"privately owned" house using highly sustainable materials was banned
because it didn't align with majority preferences.  It is not the case
that either I or the group wanted to act contrary to accepted group
goals.  Rather, there is not obviously one best strategy to reach the
goals, and real ecosystems and lives are too complex for a single best
strategy to exist.  In this particular case the group listened to what
I wanted, why I wanted it, and why I thought they might want it, too.
They understood it, thought about it, compared it to what they wanted,
and rejected it.  I didn't block, and we didn't have a "formal" block-
rejecting vote, but since we all know how the vote would come out, why
waste everyone's time?  I think the failure here was not a lack of
analysis or a win-win synthesis overlooked; the problem is that
consensus is a voting system, and as such is able to impose a
majority's "religion" (life strategy choices) on a minority.

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