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is there a group size over which consensus becomes unpracticable?

+4 votes
asked Apr 7, 2010 by harris (240 points)
edited Apr 7, 2010 by dot
Most of the classical Anarchists did not even advocate for "consensus" anyway.....While their model of participatory decision making was consensual as it was non binding on groups who didnt associate, and the minority was free to leave and would not be subject to a majority will in a binding fashion........What they DID NOT advocate was a system where a group could only act with 100% agreement, or where an individual could block decisions holding back the entire group.

What is typically called consensus, popular in some housing cooperatives and roommate situations, is NOT what most of the original Anarchists advocated anyway......So its beyond me why people go out of their way to use this impractical approach when its not even traditionally what Anarchists favored.
I don't understand what you mean by unpractical?

3 Answers

–1 vote
The real restriction on consensus is not how many people are involved, rather that the people involved have similar values.  If some people value fun, community, and cooperation, social justice, and other people value personal gain, exploiting others, and having power,  (for example if the capitalist investors in a city sat down with the people that lived in the city.) a consensus process would never work.

also, it would be very hard to work in a consensus process with people like the religious right who believe that their job is to destroy the planet so they can go to heaven faster.

Outside of a situation where people have some common ground on beliefs/values, consensus is not a useful process.
answered Apr 9, 2010 by Taigarun (1,720 points)
+5 votes
what does impracticable mean?
takes too much time? tries to juggle too many opinions? unworkable in the current system because people don't know how to get along with each other?
something else?
i expect consensus could work with groups of most sizes, given enough time. but this system/culture is not designed to give us time, nor do we know how to take it when we can.
as one way of working towards a different way of thinking of each other, and of people who we disagree with, consensus is interesting.

as a cure-all for group decision-making, it leaves a lot to be desired.
answered Apr 9, 2010 by dot (52,410 points)
0 votes
I contend that consensus can take place on multiple levels within a single group, and, therefore, its potential depends largely on how one defines the term.  In a very loose sense, one can define consensus as a collective effort to meet the needs of the members of a group in an egalitarian fashion.  If people think of one another as equal in their rights to exist and individual in their perspectives, then they might stand a decent chance of resolving conflicts at a personal level.  If decisions are made specifically by those that the decisions will affect, then the entirety of a set of individuals need not convene over the matter.  This still allows for individuals to disagree over whom a decision might affect, but, since we can thank Godel for assuring us that systems are inherently imperfect, I think that such an interpretation of consensus functions well enough for various groups to adapt it to their own situations.
answered Apr 19, 2011 by blark (950 points)
Most of the classical Anarchists did not even advocate for "consensus" anyway.....While their model of participatory decision making was consensual as it was non binding on groups who didnt associate, and the minority was free to leave and would not be subject to a majority will in a binding fashion........What they DID NOT advocate was a system where a group could only act with 100% agreement, or where an individual could block decisions holding back the entire group.

What is typically called consensus, popular in some housing cooperatives and roommate situations, is NOT what most of the original Anarchists advocated anyway......So its beyond me why people go out of their way to use this impractical approach when its not even traditionally what Anarchists favored

edited to make comment
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