The New Frontier
in Democratic Theory and Practice:
Organizational Forms that Simultaneously Optimize Autonomy & Community

©1997, Andrew Dinkelaker

Introduction - The Threat to Democracy

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We are living in an age in which democracy in both practice and theory is increasingly under attack. The very concept of self-determination -- a people capable of ruling themselves -- is in serious jeopardy. Noam Chomsky warns that "in the dominant political culture, the concept of democracy is disappearing even as an abstract ideal." 1 In recent years numerous books written on the subject of democracy have taken up the thesis that it is a concept rooted in misguided ideals. In one such book, The Twilight of Democracy, Patrick Kennon boldly asserts that "democracy is a failure." "The world has become so complicated," he argues, "and the pace of change so rapid, that only highly trained, anonymous technocrats invested with enormous authority are capable of guiding a nation's affairs." 2 In another book on the subject, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Michael Novak challenges the assumption "that democratic methods are universally desirable." He reminds us that "most sectors of the moral-cultural system do not find democratic methods appropriate in every inquiry or action" 3, a fact which inspires him to champion the corporation, despite its obvious anti-democratic leanings, as not only the source of wealth in our society but also the protector of the liberties of the individual. Novak concludes by stating that "to organize industry democratically would be a grave and costly error, since democratic procedures are not designed for productivity and efficiency." 4 Yet another book of the same ilk, In the Defense of Elitism, is hailed by the New York Times Book Review as "bracing... eloquent testimony that what killed liberalism in this country is a deeply misguided egalitarianism." 5 Similar arguments can be found in The End of Equality by Mickey Kaus, Dead Right by David Fram, and Government by Experts by Burnham Beckwith.

Despite the recent upsurge in anti-democratic literature, the attack on democracy is not new. In an article by Philip Green called "Democracy as a Contested Idea", the author asserts that "...until fairly recently in historical time, democracy was an unpopular term, especially with political elites". 6 Even in the heyday of Athenian democracy the concept of democracy was severely criticized by political theorists, including Plato and Aristotle. In more recent times it has been the policy of the United States to undermine democratic movements both domestically and abroad. According to historian Howard Zinn this policy has generated repressive government activities designed to disenfranchise large sectors of the population in this and other countries. For example, from 1938 to 1968 a congressional committee, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, was charged with keeping a continuous watch on organizations it deemed threatening to the

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status quo in the United States. Out of the house committee came the infamous McCarthy hearings. Throughout the fifties and sixties the FBI conducted clandestine counterintelligence operations (known as COINTELPRO) that targeted groups such as the Black Panthers to ensure that they did not succeed in organizing as a substantial social or political force. 7 On the international scene, the United States has frequently intervened in democratic movements in foreign countries, historically supporting dictatorships and repressive regimes over democratic ones, even going so far to sponsor military coups and assassinations in countries that threatened to take democracy "too far." Democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, for instance, was assassinated during a C.I.A. sponsored coup in the 1960's. Indeed, in U.S. foreign policy despotism has not only been characteristically valued over democracy, it has been publicly praised. Noam Chomsky illustrates this in his discussion of the support the U.S. government gave Venezuelan dictator Juan Gomez: "A U.S. diplomat in Venezuela argued that 'the Indian peon' should be given 'a simple and paternalistic form of government,' not formal democracy. He praised the Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gomez, who, with the example of Mexico before him, had 'wisely decided that a benevolent despotism was preferable to an anarchical democracy.'" 8 The large scale public rebellion and community organizing of the sixties caused many who were in the upper echelons of society at that time to fear that their days might be numbered. To curb the potential destruction of their empire, David Rockefeller and other corporate leaders enlisted several hundred elite from various sectors of government, labor, media, and the corporate world to join him in an intensive study of the "governability" of people under democracy. This "think tank," which came to be known as the Trilateral Commission, arrived at some rather disturbing conclusions about how to effectively stabilize the capitalist democracies of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. Noam Chomsky comments on their findings:

...[the Trilaterial Commission] warned of an impending "crisis of democracy" as segments of the public sought to enter the political arena. This "excess of democracy" was posing a threat to the unhampered rule of privileged elites -- what is called "democracy" in political theology. The problem was the usual one: the rabble [public] were trying to arrange their own affairs, gaining control over their communities and pressing their political demands. There were organizing efforts among young people, ethnic minorities, women, social activists, and others, encouraged by the struggles of benighted masses elsewhere for freedom and independence. More "moderation in democracy" would be required, the commission concluded, perhaps a return to the days when "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers," as the American rapporteur commented. 9

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Fears similar to the ones expressed by the Trilateral Commission concerning the alleged "excesses" of democracy continue to be voiced by apologists for the governing elites. Nicholas Kittrie, in his recent book The War Against Authority (1995), bemoans the fact that theories that underwrite the "legitimacy" of (non-democratic) status-quo power arrangements are being called into question by those who would democratize our society. For instance, according to Kittrie, "social contract" theories seeking to establish the legitimacy of "sovereign" states are under attack, as well as, theories supporting majoritarian rule and representative democracy as opposed to consensus decision making and participatory democracy. Interestingly, Kittrie traces the current "threat" posed to authority not merely to the radical winds blowing in the 1960's which worried Rockefeller and his Trilateral Commission, but to the permissive ideology of a president from a much earlier era of American history, who had, presumably, mistakenly touted "self-determination" and "autonomy" as righteous social goals.

Some commentators attribute this growing and perilous communal quest for greater identity, security, prosperity, and autonomy to the unreasonable expectations introduced into the world community by the misguided idealism of America's World War I president, Woodrow Wilson. NEW YORK TIMES writer David Binder reports that at the height of that war, when President Wilson urged that "self-determination for Europe's myriad ethnic minorities... would provide stability in the post-war environment", his secretary of state, Robert Lansing, "expressed grave concern [and belief] that the idea might make the world more dangerous". Lansing reportedly argued that self-determination would breed discontent, disorder, and rebellion. "The phrase is simply loaded with dynamite. It will raise hopes which can never be realized. It will, I fear, cost thousands of lives. What a calamity that the phrase was ever uttered! What misery it will cause!" Lansing claimed. 10

We will not concern ourselves with the question of whether Wilson can be credited as an exemplary supporter of the principles of self-determination and autonomy. What is truly remarkable about Kittrie's thesis, however, is the extent to which social disorder and catastrophe are directly linked to autonomy, self determination, and democratic forms of decision making: "Grave challenges are posed by the current war against authority not only the trappings but also the very foundations of authority. From violence-ridden schools to... the devastating effects of the war against authority are widely felt. ...the war against authority, unchecked and lacking guiding philosophical, moral, or legal principles, has reached a disastrous stage." 11

Are democratic forms of social organization productive of "disorder," and hence lacking in efficiency and effectiveness? Or has this form of social organization become devalued precisely because it threatens to promote what Chomsky, tongue in cheek, calls "public meddling in policy formation."

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The political and social history of Western democracies records all sorts of efforts to ensure that the formal mechanisms are little more than wheels spinning idly. The goal is to eliminate public meddling in policy formation. That has largely been achieved in the United States, where there is little in the way of political organizations, functioning unions, media independent of the corporate oligopoly, or other popular structures that might offer people means to gain information, clarify and develop their ideas, put them forth in the political arena, and work to realize them. 12

Although we have been concentrating here mainly on the threats to democracy that call into question the autonomy of the individual -- his or her right to self-determination -- we must turn our attention now, however briefly, to a second offensive that is being waged against the concept and practice of democracy. Christopher Lasch in his final book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, speaks to this issue when he identifies a "decline in democratic discourse" currently occurring in the Western world, which he attributes to the progressive loss in our society of a public sphere. Lasch laments the demise of a "shared community" in which "voluntary" interpersonal "associations" which promote public dialogue and debate can naturally take place. "The decline of participatory democracy may be directly related to the disappearance", he says, of "third places", public forums of this sort. 13 In the 1920's, Lasch points out, Walter Lippman identified a "breakdown of the means of public knowledge" that was leading to a situation which "raised grave questions about the future of democracy." 14 As Lasch notes, "unless information is generated by sustained public debate, most of it will be irrelevant at best, misleading and manipulative at worst." 15 Lasch correctly remarks, however, that Lippman responded to this perceived crisis by redefining democracy in such a way as to devalue it. "Democracy did not require that the people literally govern themselves. The public's stake in government was strictly procedural. The public interest did not extend to the substance of decision making... Questions of the substance should be decided by knowledgeable administrators whose access to reliable information immunized them against the emotional 'symbols' and 'stereotypes' that dominated public debate. The public was incompetent to govern itself and did not even care to do so." 16

Philip Slater in his latest work, A Dream Deferred: America's Discontent and the Search for a New Democratic Ideal, comments on the "public" nature of "private" corporations. In a chilling passage Slater reminds us how we have come to permit the erosion of the public sphere by acquiescing to its "privatization" by the corporate sector:

The social and economic role of the corporations in modern society is more like that of the great feudal landholders of medieval Europe and Japan. No organization that has thousands of employees, billions in assets, and giant tracts of land can lay any claim to being private. These corporations are public institutions, and as such should

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be subject to democratic control. Their decisions affect every one of us, not just their stockholders. If they want to be private, let them be smaller. We can no longer afford the luxury of encouraging our corporations to do whatever they can get away with and letting them off with a slap on the wrist on the rare occasions when our woefully inadequate enforcement agencies happen to surprise them in a major crime. 17

Slater warns us that anti-democratic tendencies have indeed infected a number of our institutions:

Although some democratic institutions seem firmly entrenched in our society, the attitudes, values, and beliefs that support these institutions are not to be taken for granted. Democracy has penetrated only a limited segment of our collective consciousness. Most of our public and private organizations are still authoritarian in structure -- our corporations, professions, and educational institutions have yet to feel more than the palest breath of democratic influence. The authoritarian era, after all, embraces most of recorded history -- most of what we think of as civilization -- and it is still deeply embedded in our psyches. Our most popular legends are rooted in it, our deepest beliefs have been shaped and colored by it. 18

As evidence in support of Slater's thesis we can cite examples of the way in which an insidious erosion of the philosophical and social supports for genuine democracy have occured in the following social institutions:

  • A pervasive lack of understanding in both the theory and practice of democracy in progressive education, even within those colleges intentionally founded on democratic educational theories - such as John Dewey's;
  • Grossly conservative anti-democratic trends in the supreme court which have traditionally been the branch of government that supports individual rights;
  • Increased anti-labor legislation being introduced and debated on the floor of both the House and Senate which threatens to roll back the gains won by previous generations of workers and unions. The bills debated during the 1996 year include: "Right-To-Work-For-Less" (outlawing union and agency shop provisions of union contracts), "Overtime Repeal" (allowing bosses to promise "time off" instead of paying time-and-a-half), and the "Teamwork Act" (allows bosses to set up and pay for currently illegal "company unions");
  • The concentration and consolidation of power in "private" multinational corporations greatly assisted by the passage of NAFTA and GATT;

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  • The growing "privatization" of public forums and the resulting widespread acceptance of the "right" of individuals in positions of privilege status (e.g.. Corporate CEOs) to make decisions for others;
  • The monopolization of the media by only a handful of corporations, the recent devaluation of investigative reporting, and the trivialization of information (and selective reporting of the news) further eroding the public sphere; 19
  • The move toward the privatization of social services (health, social security, welfare), further shrinking the public sphere and replacing social values with profit;
  • The promotion of extremely autocratic institutional forms of organization, which use the private corporation and the military and prison-industrial-complex, as opposed to democratic public organizations, as the dominant model;
  • The increase in gerrymandering, attacks on affirmative action and welfare, and other policies and practices that result in the oppression of various minorities;
  • The demise of consensus decision-making as a practical model for resolving differences and inequalities. Anti-consensus arguments are even found in "progressive" political circles, which were once exemplary in their practice and advocacy of participatory democracy.

These anti-democratic trends in our institutions comprise what Presidential candidate Ralph Nader has recently called the piece by piece "dismantling of our democracy."

Democracy as an Advanced Form of Socio-Political Organization

In this work we will arrive at a definition of democracy that proposes that is in essence a special form of social organization uniquely designed to maximize the participation of individuals in the group, and in its decisions, while simultaneously ensuring the autonomy of the individual. The democratic form of social organization, thus, in principle and in practice reconciles the rights of the individual with the needs of the group as a whole. This form of social organization may well be considered to be the crowning achievement at the apex of a long evolution of the forms of human social grouping. As such, it is to be cherished and protected against the onslaught of "autocrats" and "rugged individualists" alike -- those who, respectively, would undermine it by promoting homogeneity through hierarchy and heteronomy on the one hand, or through an isolationist "independence" of the individual on the other.

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There is profound wisdom concerning social organization embedded in the simple principles of democracy. Through this wisdom we would achieve effective "organization" in our social groupings not through the superficial imposition of a preconceived structural order, but by honoring process -- freely-entered interpersonal processes that are reciprocal in nature, "mutual". By adopting a (minimalist) organizational structure (i.e., a "democracy") we protect, nurture, and grow such processes. These processes are the very heart of humankind's capacity for "self-organization" -- our ability to respond, as a group, with creativity, flexibility, and in a timely and effective manner to changes in our environment that demand our attention. Therefore, these principles may also be the key to our survival as a species. More importantly, perhaps, these principles comprise an untapped reservoir of potential remedies to the disasters that we, as a species who have yet failed to organize in socially just and effective ways, have wrought on the ecological system. In this work, as a social ecologist, I use these principles to refocus our socio-political dialogue.

The Structure of this Manuscript

This thesis is divided into six chapters. The unique focus of each chapter can be viewed as a topic unto itself. But it is in the interlocking relationships of the chapters that the reader will find a highly charged and provocative analysis of democracy taken from an organizational, psychological, educational, and socio-political perspective.

Chapter one, "Introducing the Four Quadrant System", is an exploration of the historical development of democracy as a concept and as a socio-political practice. The analysis starts with Athenian democracy (phase one) and ends with contemporary theories of democracy which view individual "rights" and social cohesion as mutually enhancing conditions (phase four). I argue that phase four pushes earlier democratic theory and practice to a new frontier. The Four Quadrant system is a model that views individual "rights" and social cohesion as two distinct and independent dimensions of human socio-political space. These two dimensions form a coordinate system of four Quadrants that can be used to determine how various socio-political systems including democracy value each of these dimensions. According to this coordinate system, democracy corresponds to Quadrant four.

The second chapter, "Participatory Democracy as Process", draws from Ian Mitroff's theory, which identifies four forms of organizational: bureaucracy, research and development, familial, and organic adaptive forms. I connect recent theories of organizational development to socio-political systems and demonstrate that the two overlap. In the course of doing this further characteristics of each Quadrant are articulated. As a result, I show that radical democracies (which occur in Quadrant Four), when compared to other socio-political structures, is skeletal, minimalist, and often "negative" in its description. For example, there is the description of radical democracy as the lack of hierarchy, autocratic control and concentration of wealth and power, and the absence of "structure." However, the essence of radical democracy is not the absence of structure but the presence of "process." I define "process" as the "implicate order" latent in radical democracy. Instead of focusing upon the definition of radical democracy as structure and the lack thereof, I am concerned with examining and

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articulating process and the presence thereof. Insofar as radical democracy is a structure, it is a minimalist one that ensures the presence of interpersonal process and free interpersonal association, uninhibited by coercive restrictions. This chapter is an exploration of the various threads that when woven together comprise the experience of the kind of "process" supported by minimalist social structures.

The third chapter, "The Four Quadrants and the 'Core' Psychological Types", examines how Mitroff arrived at these four organizational forms using Jung's theory of Psychological Type. It attempts to view the core features of participatory democracy through the lens of typology. The four functions of consciousness (thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensing) are discussed, along with how two of these functions (feeling and intuition) are found to be undervalued and repressed in Western society. Though this assertion, made primarily by Jungians, is usually associated with Jungian thought, I demonstrate that there were many preceding Jung who shared this view -- including Romantics, Anarchists, and artists from the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Quadrant Four, I argue, is characterized (at the psychological level of description) by appreciation and development of feeling and intuition. These two functions, in their advanced stages of development, correspond, in the political sphere, to a desire for community (feeling) and autonomy (intuition).

Having distinguished both a socio-political and a psychological description of Quadrant Four, chapter five, "Educating for Participatory Democracy", examines those educational processes that seek to simultaneously develop the individual's capacity for becoming an autonomous human being capable of building community, as well as educating the feeling and intuitive functions of consciousness. I argue that unless we educate and develop these skills in combination it is extremely difficult to move, as individuals or as a society, into Quadrant Four. Therefore the focus of this chapter is to articulate what is needed to function, sustain, and thrive in socio-political organizations that are democratic and highly participatory.

Chapter five, "Participatory Democracy Deferred", examines a few key obstacles that inhibit movement toward Quadrant Four. I am especially interested in addressing three that arise out of arguments presented by political "progressives", those who would see themselves as advocates of radical democracy. This chapter examines the arguments of deep ecologist Suzi Gablik and social ecologist Murray Bookchin. I explore the positive contributions that these authors make, as well as identify where their arguments appear to fall short in their move toward participatory democracy and Quadrant Four process. This discussion offers a strategy for identifying and reconciling the critical differences between deep ecology and social ecology in the context of the Four Quadrant System.

The final chapter, "Consensus: The Quintessential Methodology for Participatory Democracy", examines the potential that the Four Quadrant System has for providing a theoretical framework for developing assessment tools for typing organizations. Consensus process meets the criteria of high participation and high autonomy that Quadrant Four requires of its decision-making methodologies. I examine seven distinct types of "consensus" and suggest that the more advanced forms of consensus would create the conditions for creativity and self-managed change necessary for facing the socially and ecologically complex problems we are currently incapable of addressing.

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1. Noam Chomsky. (1992). Deterring Democracy. p. 303.
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2. Patrick Kennon. (1995). The Twilight of Democracy. [excerpted from the back cover].
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3. Michael Novak. (1982). The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. p. 175.
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4. Novak. (1982). p. 178.
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5. William Henry. (1995). In the Defense of Elitism. [excerpted from inside jacket].
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6. Philip Green, edt. (1993). Democracy: Key Concepts in Critical Theory. p. 2.
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7. Howard Zinn. (1990). A People's History of the United States. p. 455
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8. Chomsky. (1992). pp. 43-44.
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9. Chomsky. (1992). p. 365.
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10. Nicholas N. Kittrie. (1995). The War Against Authority. p. 248.
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11. Kittrie. (1995). p. 229.
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12. Chomsky. (1992). p. 76.
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13. Christopher Lasch. (1995). The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. p. 123.
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14. Lasch. (1995). p. 168.
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15. Lasch. (1995). p. 177.
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16. Lasch. (1995). pp. 168-9.
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17. Philip Slater. (1991). A Dream Deferred: America's Discontent and the Search for a New Democratic Ideal. p. 63.
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18. Slater. (1991). p. 22.
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19. The Nation, June 3rd, 1996 issue contained a centerfold illustrating the communications monopoly of the mass media: featuring Disney Corp., General Electric, Time Warner, and Westinghouse.
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