The Origins of Collective Decision-Making by Andy Blunden

A history of majority and consensus decision-making structures used by direct-democratic assemblies of the sort advocated for by libertarian socialists

Submitted by The_Dilettante on June 13, 2020

Andy Blunden's book traces three decision-making structures across recent history. The first is Counsel, where a central authority gets feedback from subjects before making its decision. But the other two are more interesting to socialists because they're radically democratic and employed by assemblies as part of direct democracy -- Majority, where a majority vote of the assembly decides; and Consensus, where the assembly must unanimously assent to the action and any individual can block it.

Libertarian socialists have been interested in these forms for a long time as the structuring principles of socialist institutions such as people's assemblies, trade and tenants' unions, cooperatives, housing collectives or communes, and more. There have also been, sometimes, quite fierce debates about which is better. Spanning hundreds of years and going through such diverse examples as guilds, mutual aid societies, indigenous societies, dissident religious groups, and various social movements (including chartrism, feminism, pacifism, and anti-nuclear activism), Blunden's book reminds us that these forms have a rich history, one that can allow us to learn from the workers' organizations of the past and create new tools for the future.