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Is it tyranical for a minority to block the majority from their preferred course of action in group decision making?

0 votes
Proudhon advocated a democratic process (When he attacked democracy he was attacking what was typically called democracy, and what was typically called property), where decisions would be made by majority or super majority but where decisions were not-binding on the minority.....Also, decisions were only applicable by those who voluntarily associate.

In my opinion, Proudhon would find it abhorrent that a minority could block the will of the majority in a group.

If he opposed making a majority decision binding on the minority, then how could one justify making a minority objection binding on the majority?

Makes no sense.
asked Aug 28, 2011 by Nick_Djinn (200 points)
"democracy" + "anarchy" makes no sense. the only "democracy" that's "democratic" is the "democracy" that recognizes and respects each individual's right or "vote" of self-ommission.. So, in a voluntary group of "anarchists" who choose to use "democracy," if and WHEN winners say "well, this is how it goes," the others can just leave or not go along.. fine.. but why even "vote" ? are you going to use the resources of the people who disagreed? why didn't you just get together and say "hey, anybody want to do this?"

and, what kind of "anarchist" wants to join a group in which he will basically be ordered around by 50%+1 of the members?
Mutual aid and support? You might not agree with one idea but unless its harmful or repressive you have no real cause or desire to leave.

An example would be a worker controlled factory. One group want to make Item X and another Item Y. Both give there reasons, good and bad for the production and people can see the merits and faults in both. The workers agree to have a vote. The vote goes for Y. The workers that want X are unhappy but see the merit in remaining part of the collective and all working on one item rather than two.

A Flip side argument would be a large commune or collective meet to discuss forcing another group to provide for them luxury goods and raw materials for their own productions. The minority that vote against should withdraw.

When more than two people come together you are going to have clashes of ideas and egos on achieving the same goal so assembly and votes will happen.

3 Answers

0 votes
who should make decision(s), and how the solutions and problems are formulated, is extremely contextual. so much so that i'm not sure that talking about it in the extreme abstract, as this question does, even makes any sense.
there are certainly times when minority decision making is fucked up - for example in the situation the u.s. is in now. there are other times when a small number is the only group that is actually impacted by an issue, so their input is the most relevant/meaningful, and therefor it makes sense for them to make a decision on their own, or even in the face of opposition by a larger group.

(for another perspective on this, the movie 12 Angry Men is really good. just for fun...)
answered Aug 28, 2011 by dot (50,920 points)
+2 votes
To actually block someone's will is tyrannical, but simply disagreeing with them and using the "block" mechanism that is commonly part of consensus decision-making is not.

If a group makes decisions by consensus, that means that they consider it important that everything the group does officially or in the name of the group is agreed upon by all of its members, or at least that none of the members have strong objections.

If a proposal for activity is blocked, and some people still want it to happen (not thinking the minority should prevent their own activity, but not wanting to take action in the name of a group that includes people who disagree with the action), they can still carry out the activity autonomously. The only thing they cannot do is honestly claim to have the agreement of the group in question.

edit: democracy is the tyranny of a minority in the name of the majority.
answered Aug 28, 2011 by anok (19,540 points)
edited Aug 28, 2011 by anok
Everyone talks about how the majority could just split away and do what they want to do anyway.....completely ignoring the reality of possession's that are held by a collective 'moral agent'. When a collective controls property, especially when operating as anti-capitalists in a capitalist society, the argument that we would have the freedom to break away ignores certain realities and practicalities.

Personally I would much rather voluntarily subject myself to a majoritarian process, so long as it only has authority over voluntary adherents.....If I was one person I would feel really shitty blocking 20 others who all disagreed with me, just because I have Veto power.....and Likewise, if just one person blocked for personal reasons something that 20 others really wanted to do.....I would say they were behaving like a tyrant, using consensus to put themselves in a position of authority over others.....and how would they deal with group property if the 20 wanted to break way from the 1 over that disagreement? A super majority vote in that case would be so much smoother than separate votes to reach consensus, another vote to eliminate the member which can fail if just one other person blocks....and so on...Its a potential nightmare in large groups.


But I will agree that its not inherently tyranical. It can actually work out ok and be highly egalitarian in small groups with the right people....like no more than 3-9. Groups capable of running a factory or public utilities could not possibly adhere to strict consensus and keep the utilities running.


None of the successful Anarchist movements, such as the Spanish Syndicalists, used a strict adherence to 100% consensus decision making....This is a fairly new trend where groups consider consensus the only viable alternative to democratic centralism. Its not historically supported, except that adherence to democratic process must always be decentralized and by voluntary association.

Using the housing co-op model of consensus easily turns into a nightmare with large groups, and eventually somebody will use their veto power in a way that is either exploitative or tyrannical if the group is large enough and stays together long enough.
the point of consensus is not some bullshit allegiance to nominal egalitarianism, which is what you seem to be proposing (voting dissenters out one by one? hunh?)...
one of the main points to consensus is that people make better decisions when all concerns are addressed in good faith, meaning they're taken seriously by all concerned.
your premise, that people will block as some sort of sad power play, is certainly an issue but speaks to how we have to learn to use consensus well...
edit: democracy is the tyranny of a minority in the name of the majority. -
ah, indeed. and a "republic" is tyranny BY a minority in the name of "the majority"
"To actually block someone's will is tyrannical" unless their will is to tyrannize you (or anyone else who doesn't WANT to be tyrannized o.O)
Apparently a minority ruling or censoring public opinion and free exchange of information is perfectly fine, if you claim the site is Anarchist. So if this is the Anarchist ideal, I guess anything goes.
I suggest you read this article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making

edit: made comment, since a link does not an answer make.
As you yourself write, you "would feel really shitty blocking 20 others who all disagree with me". This social feeling is the key to a collective process like consensus. For consensus to work, there needs to be the possibility to generate this social feeling, to criticize those who see their own interests and competitive and separate from the others in the group, and even be able to kick people out of a group if they do not operate within the logic of consensus. The idea is that you only block a decision if you think it would do you some kind of harm, not just because you disagree with it. It is a mechanism intended to protect the smallest minority. It only works if people are not functioning within a majoritarian or competitive logic.

On the other hand, I don't think there is anything unanarchist about a group that functions via majority for the sake of expedience, as long as it is a voluntary association. And far from being the epitome of anarchy, I think consensus is often repressive in a collectivist way. Totally informal and non-binding decision-making spaces have a major advantage over formal consensus spaces in many respects. Perhaps the key is to have multipe decision-making spaces, each with different styles and logics, and none with absolute legitimacy or centrality.
hey petar m, i would vote this comment up if it were an answer.
+1 vote
A group no matter the size of a majority or the size of a minority, are made of individuals.  Is there any difference between one individual blocking the preferred course of another?  We all should be the tyrants of our own lives and no group the tyrant of another.

And ..."Also, decisions were only applicable by those who voluntarily associate" ... why even vote?  If a group of people want to do some just ask others if they want to join.
answered May 31, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,090 points)
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