On power, assembly, and trust
Typically decisions are made by some form of centralized decision-making body. In politics you might call it an elite, in business an executive, or in defense a general. These figures form oligarchies of decision-making that usually influence the security, well-being, and autonomy of many others.
These centralized-decision makers or leaders set the long-term course for some social system, whether a company, nation-state, or movement. They may choose to represent the will of the people faithfully or pay lip service to it to amass power, as in modern populism. The masses, be they the proletariat, employee, or voter take local action within these strategic directions. For instance, performing labour, building a PowerPoint deck, or getting vaccinated.
In their book Assembly Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call for an inversion of this dynamic. Where leaderless (or leader-light) social movements collectively set long-term course and local leaders take tactical action. This seems similar to the explorations Frederic Laloux and Brian Robertson conducted in Reinventing Organizations and Holacracy. Namely, organizations with distributed decision-making faculties and mechanisms for mediating conflict and responsibility amongst a peer group.
Meld Studios, an Australian futures studio, became Australia’s first Employee-Owned Trust. Imagine if every company (and nation) was truly owned and led by the people it most deeply impacted - no matter how many of them there are. Why don’t more forms of collective ownership and decision-making exist?
The assumption underlying many of society’s institutions is that people can’t inherently be trusted. Policing? People will lie, cheat, and steal unless stopped. The law? People don’t know what’s inherently right without being told. Defense? Our only form of security is being as or more powerful than our neighbors. Theory X vs Theory Y.
The most equitable, prosperous, and meaningful human future appears to feature decentralized, collective, egalitarian decision-making where experts lead local change.