The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Originally printed for the women's liberation movement in 1970TL;DR

  • Structure inherently is not bad. Structurelessness is a facade for masking informal power structures

    • what people seek from startups over “structured corporate environments” is flexibility and being heard. NOT structurelessness.

  • find a democratic way to elect leader(s) whilst maintaining the power of group decisions

    • encourage people to step out of their comfort zones yet also reward those for doing well even if they are low level tasks. it is a balance.

  • responsibility must be taken

  • power should always be temporary

  • education is never enough. action must be taken. e.g. George Floyd, Asian hate, etc. All don't have nationally organized movements and thus result in raised awareness and frustrated participants.

How it came to be

  • natural reaction against overstructured society

  • idea of structurelessness moved from a healthy counter to a goddess in its own right

Formal and Informal Structures

  • structureless groups do not exist.

    • if a group comes together, there will inevitably be structure. It is only possible if we refuse to relate or interact.

  • structureless groups are as useful as an “objective” news story or “free” economy

  • it is a smokescreen and a way for masking power for the strong and lucky to establish unquestioned power over others

    • laissez faire did not prevent economically powerful from establishing wage / price control

  • thus, it is most strongly advocated by those who are most powerful, aware or not

  • there is always structure. BUT there is a difference between informal and formal structure. informal is the basis on which elitism forms

The nature of elitism

  • Elite = small group of people who have power over a larger group without direct responsibility and often without their knowledge or consent

  • Usually just a group of friends who happen to participate in the same political activities. They could do either without the other.

  • The worst elites are unknown. The intelligent elites are well known and watched. Their power is known and able to be managed.

  • Unstructured groups are totally governed by elites. This is bad because:

    • Informal decision making becomes sorority-like

      • you listen to someone because you like them not because they say important things

    • Informal structures have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large.

      • Power was not given to them so it cannot be taken away.

      • The group does not influence them.

      • Responsibility cannot be compelled.

The Star System

  • The press and public do not know how to listen seriously to individual women. They want to know how the group feels

  • 3 techniques known to man for establishing mass group opinion:

  1. Vote

  2. Public opinion survey questionnaire

  3. Selecting spokespeople

  • Women’s liberation movement used NONE of these.

  • Those chosen as spokeswomen were not elected by women, they just happened to catch the public eye. SO the women actually reject this spokesperson and then they become free to commit all the individualistic sins of which she had been accused

Political Impotence

  • The movement generated a lot of emotion and few results. The victim becomes the movement itself

  • Local action projects are limited locally

    • National movements are the only one that really work

  • When a group has no specific task, the people in it turn their energies to controlling others. They literally have nothing better to do. They just criticize each other. Infight and personal power games. With a task, people learn to set their differences aside to work together

    • For the womens liberation movement, they either turned on each other or sought other action methods

  • Other action methods:

    • Do your own thing. Doesn’t go too far though

    • Leave the movement

    • Turn towards other political orgs where they are using the women’s movement as a recruiting ground, and the women’s movement is a tangential concern.

      • These women become the new informal elite.

        • They threaten the old elite because the old elite would have to expose themselves and their “structurelessness”. They are so stubbornly attached to their idea of structurelessness

  • Diffusion of ideas =/= implementation.

    • “insofar as they can be applied individually they may be acted upon; insofar as they require coordinated political power to be implemented, they will not be”

  • Womens liberation movement was dedicated to stressing small, inactive discussion groups amongst friends. This excludes those who don’t fit into the mold of “womens liberation movement supporter”

  • “if the movement continues deliberately not to select who shall exercise power, it does not thereby abolish power. All it does is abdicate the right to demand that those who do exercise power and influence be responsible for it”

  • Find a middle ground between domination and ineffectiveness

  • Womens liberation at this point had become a household name. education work is not a need anymore.

    • Establish priorities and coordinate objectives on a local, regional, and national way

Principles of Democratic Structuring

  • Should not blindly reject an extreme. Nothing is perfect. Each method gives us insights into what we should not do to obtain certain ends. Experiment with different kinds of structuring.

  • Nothing is inherently bad about structure – only its excessive use

  1. Delegate specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures

    1. If you are selected after expressing interest, they usually demonstrate a sense of responsibility to get it done

  2. Require those who have been delegated authority to be responsible.

    1. Group decides ultimately but individual exercise power

  3. Distribute authority amongst as many as possible.

    1. Encourages mutual consulting and little monopoly

  4. Rotate tasks amongst individuals.

    1. A position held too long becomes property and uneasily relinquished.

    2. Rotating too much does not give a sense of ownership and satisfaction

  5. Allocate tasks along rational criteria: ability, interest and responsibility.

    1. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have but this is best done through apprenticeship program rather than sink or swim method.

      1. Responsibility that is overwhelming is demoralizing.

      2. Being blackballed from what you can do hinders skill development.

  6. Diffusion of information to everyone as much as possible.

  7. Equal access to resources even if it is a personal resource being used for the broader good

  8. Regardless of structure, the group should be controlled by and responsible by the group itself

  9. Power should be flexible, open, and temporary

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