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One Vote for Democracy
Consensus vs. democracy

Diemer, Ulli

Publisher:  Ulli Diemer, Canada
Date Written:  08/09/1986
Year Published:  1986  
Resource Type:  Article

Makes the case that the democratic model is better than the consensus model for activist group decision-making.

Abstract:  According to Ulli Diemer, democratic groups are better equipped to deal with process problems. This is because democracy allows a group to proceed with what it wants to do in the face of people who are obstructive, obnoxious or insensitive. Democracy makes it possible for a group to say to such people, in essence, that 'we don't think this particular discussion/behaviour is constructive anymore, and we want to move on, whether you agree or not'. It enables the group to proceed in the way the majority of people in it want it to.
Consensus, on the other hand, allows people who are insensitive or stubborn to bring the whole group grinding to a halt. Ideally, of course, they "stand aside" or learn to participate more constructively, but what has actually happened in countless consensus groups is that the group has been prevented from doing what most people in it wanted to do - in other words, prevented from functioning - because one or a few people have blocked consensus or dragged discussions on past the willingness of most members to continue participating in the group. The social change movement is littered with the corpses of groups which fell apart for precisely such reasons.


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