How to replace your democracy with governance by the people

Politicians and reformers have been promising governance by the people (with caveats) since the beginnings of democracy. Unfortunately, democracy will never bring governance by the people and neither will an overthrow of democracy. So how do we peacefully transition from a democratic system to governance by the people?

The typical promises of politicians are contingent on them being elected. Without your votes, they do not have the power to represent your interests. If you elect them to represent you they promise to take your opinion into account when governing. If your chosen party is not elected, you must wait patiently for another chance in the next election.

Fortunately, governance by the people is not something you need to be represented for or something you need to request from your current government. It stands to reason your current governent could not give you governance by someone else (the people). Governance is something the people must simply do. It is only after governance by the people is established that politicians can be lobbied into supporting it until it makes them obsolete.

If Binding Chaos was a political party in a parliamentary democracy

The first goal of a Chaos party* would be to enable every person to participate. Therefore the primary purpose of a Chaos party would be to write software, platforms and guides and provide outreach of all kinds to help people participate wherever their interests lie. The party would exist not to govern but to enable governance.

Currently, the leader of an elected party gets to appoint an MP to serve as the policy guide for each ministry. Seldom, if ever, does the minister have the expertise needed for such a position. The public never has an opportunity to assess or promote expertise to this position. There is very little opportunity for the public to influence the decisions made.

Unofficial ministries for each system should be set up as permanent open epistemic communities regardless of what party is in power. If a Chaos party comes to power, the unofficial ministries will become the epistemic communities that guide policy. If another party comes to power, the unofficial ministries which represent the will and peer promoted expertise of the people will still guide policy or the elected politicians will face the electoral consequences. Currently, lobby groups are sometimes formed to attempt to influence policy but what is needed is a full and permanent shadow cabinet by the people. When this shadow cabinet is established and effective, there will be no need for any other.

Once principles for each ministry are agreed to, every person can further ideas and take corresponding actions as they see fit. The power of the voters is in the contribution of their ideas and actions far more than their ballot vote every four years. The unofficial ministries can call their own referendums and submit their own bills to all elected MP’s. Official organizations and positions are replaced by actions, ideas and epistemic communities which are open to all to participate in. In many cases the permission of elected officials is not necessary, epistemic communities can guide policy by education and participatory discussion instead of official government policy.

* A Chaos party does not exist. This is a hypothetical case for any political party wishing to incorporate principles from Binding Chaos. PDF here.

13 thoughts on “How to replace your democracy with governance by the people

  1. In Uruguay, the –on aggregate, “leftie” — and currently hegemonic Broad Front party originally worked in a similar way, with permanent assemblies of citizens they called “the bases”. After some years, this system involuted towards traditional representative democracy, with their own cadre of celebrity politicians, leaving less and less power to the bases.

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  2. The difference I think between the general assembly approach and this is the permanent ‘voted up’ epistemic communities who provide policy advice in each system. Replacing not just parliament but also the ministries (which is usually where the action is anyway). We have to run a parallel system until it is more effective and popular than the current one in any case, it is silly to do the all or nothing political party method. Do you have any links I could read on the Broad Front?

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  3. (The following was originally formulated as a result of collaborative discussions between Heather and I, which we thought others may find interesting).

    I really enjoyed paper Heather, and I quite agree with the direction you`re taking. The other day I had a conversation with a colleague about how a similar theoretical system would work on a local, national and even international level. On a theoretical level your thesis makes a lot of sense to me, although working it out in practice raises a few issues which I think requires a more multidimensional approach. Conversely, I think we need to ground it more in a foundational framework that implies a many-sided transformation. On a purely systems level, it makes a lot of sense. But, for me at least (and please feel free to disagree), I think for it to become a more concrete, viable alternative it needs to be grounded not only in an alternative theory of the subject (i.e., how to foster a ‘free flourishing subject’ as opposed to a hardened, repressed subjectivity so typical of coercive society) and an alternative theory of collectivity which would ‘naturally’ emerge from out of this (i,e, Summerhill School is one example). It would also require a many-sided, holisitic or multidimensional view of social transformation: epistemologically and anthropologically, as well as psychologically, relationally, emotionally, etc. etc.

    Having said that, I think the concern will always be how to keep the system normatively ‘ìn-check’ so that structures of power do not re-emerge and policy therefore doesn’t ‘go over the head of the individual’. It would also require a reformulation of the notion of ‘leadership’, a definition that is quite different to what we understand as ‘leadership’ in a hierarchical, coercive social context. Even the ‘epistemic communities’ would take on some form of leadership simply on the basis of their position of knowledge and offering up policy recommendations, etc. The systems would also need to be dynamic, fluid and open to change, constantly adapting or adjusting to new needs so as not to become rigid and oppressive. But I think that this could be built in to the ‘normative critique’ of the system itself. I can think, for instance, of certain alternative educational environments that have developed very practical and functional ways to ensure that the daily practice does not violate the individual and is normatively geared toward fostering a ‘free-flursihing subject’. This would be my first approach in collaborating with you – I would be inclined to introduce an alternative epistemology and anthropology that could work with your systems theory on the ground level and hopefully contribute to a simultaneously ground-up/top-down vision for an alternative society.

    Moreover, my suspicion is that all of the finer points I think can be worked through the more they are engaged with by a diverse body and the more these alternative systems are rooted in an alternative philosophy of life. For example, my biggest concern always is the structural foundation on which such a system would operate – I mean that in a fundamental, holistic sense. The relational, psychological, emotional, social (etc.) context would need to be quite different than it is now in order to support this alternative to democracy. (I don’t mean this as a criticism: rather, quite rightly it should require such a deep, many-sided transformation). It would be very difficult to implement this alternative to democracy by itself because the very systems in place today operate so differently on an epistemological, anthropological and cosmological level and, in turn, produce highly problematic, antagonistic social forces that go against self-governance (and so on).

    In the coming I intend to publish a paper on what this ‘more broad’ or foundational view of systemic change means, theoretically and practically, which will lead up to several more major works. For the interested reader, you’ll be able to find this paper here: http://www.heathwoodpress.com. The most basic point, however, is that a systems view is certainly needed and I think Heather offers some very good formulations which I am personally excited about working with conceptually in the future; but alternative systems themselves must also be grounded in a deeper foundation. I’ve witnessed so many alternative communities collapse even though their systems were well defined, because they were one-dimensional and – and this is crucial – they ended up perpetuating the same distortions as modern and historic society on a very fundamental epistemological, anthropological and cosmological level.

    It is also interesting to note, in passing, that sustainable change – at least historically speaking – has never come as the result of a flash in the pan revolution. Rather, change is far more transitory than many people realise. It is such an integrative process, and ever little event can have a lot of significance: from the local farmer choosing to integrate more sustain agricultural methods to the alternative school that just opened, these seemingly small events might not represent ‘the end’ but they offer ‘guideposts’ in how we might do things differently in a particular area.

    This is one reason why I personally advocate that Occupy wasn’t a failure. Rather society failed Occupy. With Occupy what we witnessed were real people engaged in real struggle, who, rightly or wrongly, didn’t subscribe to the notion of traditional political engagement: the return of communism, an almighty revolution, or a new deified politic. It was far more grounded and concrete: formulating in a very human way viable, transitory networks of change like worker coops, participatory economic theories, alternative agriculture. These again are not the end, but they’re concrete steps toward a more whole systemic alternative which will never be static ‘utopian’ state of affairs but one that is constantly developing and innovating more just methods and practices across all dimensions of life.

    Rant over!

    Cheers,

    R.C.S

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  4. Several questions I meant to add above, which might also be worth considering:

    – How would one ensure that the ‘epistemic communities’ formulated in ‘Binding Chaos’ remain open to exchange of knowledge/experience with other communities? For me, this would require an alternative epistemology.

    – How would one ensure that the communities do not become closed, rigid, ideological, repressed totalities in themselves as the present epistemic paradigm is inclined to do?

    – How would one safeguard against the ‘Chaos Party’ (a name I don’t appreciate too much, because I think it is excluding and too negative for ‘positive’ social event) undertaking a certain role of power, a form of ‘rigid’ & hierarchical leadership?

    Cheers,
    R.C.S

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  5. I agree it can be hard for people of “hardened, repressed subjectivities” to envision how something like Binding Chaos could work. But good education, art, and kindness/respect free people up. Freedom makes it easier to imagine non-coercive, alternative systems. I worry getting bogged down in theory might slow people trying to take concrete actions to free people up. To me the best theorists are thinkers such as Kant who teach people to imagine new frameworks and thinkers such as Wittgenstein who clear up the occlusions smart people can give themselves by thinking but not acting. Maybe I am just too down on theory/academia though.

    I read Heather’s use of “chaos” as something like “spontaneous.”

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  6. Pingback: A series of essays introducing an alternative philosophy of systemic change | ΕΝΙΑΙΟ ΜΕΤΩΠΟ ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑΣ

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