Principles of Horizontal Decision-making

All power rests at the bottom

[The following was made as an extension of the pseudogaffe anarchism introductory reference in the hopes of making a brief but detailed text on anarchist methods of society and self-management.]

The egalitarian structure of making decisions ultimately rests on an absence of hierarchy or fixed, specialized positions, and using communication, consent, accountability and collaboration as a tool for communities, and not a monolithic duty to be obeyed. The practices of maximizing efficiency alongside autonomy may have unintended side-effects if we fail to specify key elements of securing the two as one process. The goal here is to provide a readable and understandable summary of making decisions in an anarchist manner.

  • All power rests at the bottom, which forms the horizontal bedrock of power. The bottom consists of the participants (neighborhoods, workplaces, families, etc.) Those whom the decision will ultimately effect, and who are responsible for the cooperation’s entire existence, communicate, finalize the decision, and execute it on their own terms.
  • Consensus is the ideal method of decision-making in egalitarian circles. This means that members discuss certain problems and solutions to form a group-wide agreement in solidarity, rather than separate interests competing between each other. However, if the need arises or an agreement cannot be reached, a group can consent to putting their issue to a majority-vote. Individual members can also act spontaneously on an issue if the action does not hinder other agreed actions and includes consenting members (if any).
  • Communication processes tend to open up disagreements and alternative suggestions. Voluntary association means that members are free to exit groups at their own will, but they are also able to approve, abstain or block a proposal as members. Approving or abstaining from a proposal as a single member means different things for progressing in different situations, but any members opposing a proposal means that another solution must be discussed.
  • An ongoing execution process requires continued communication between participants and collaborators for it to remain egalitarian. This means that the process is always open to retraction and secondary inspection by the participants if it is requested. Several inspections will eventually create a globally agreed course of action. The complexity of these inspections usually depends on the type of situation being dealt with.
  • In organization, power degrades as it moves up into the federations, if any. Broader collaborative bodies like confederations and networks exist primarily, if not solely, to facilitate complex activities. Free association is the guiding principle of building cooperative bonds around affinity or need, generally in the fashion of mutual aid.
  • Delegates represent the consensus of a group involved in collaboration. They move up in the collaborative organizations, which is where the deterioration of power applies. Their position is made anarchistic by subjecting it to a few simple requirements:
  • Regular rotation — Delegates are rotated (shared or changed) in groups as often as possible to share the role with everybody, and used primarily for directly communicating a group’s decision for the sake of efficiency.
  • Immediate recall — Delegates are subject to retraction and secondary inspection whenever requested and evaluated.
  • Limited mandate — Boundaries on what a delegate can do are defined by the group that the delegate is acting for. Exceeding these boundaries results in an immediate recall.
  • Decisions, actions and participants are intended to form a reciprocal chain of communication, autonomy and decentralized order. If any one element in the chain becomes centralized, entrenched or does not comply with the participants, the entire involved actions and roles must be retracted, evaluated, and restarted from the beginning if necessary.
  • Groups and networks must leave space open for spontaneous action, as well as decision-making practices that enable group autonomy outside of larger groups. This allows every community’s participants to develop new organizations, practices and means of evaluating actions that affect their lives and freedom. Furthermore, it is free association taken to its full conclusion, and bookends the objective of horizontal decision-making.

Originally published at