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Consensus Decision Making

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One hallmark of Occupy Wall Street has been consensus decision-making. Over the last decade, progressive groups have come to rely on consensus as the primary way they make decisions. And as OWS is finding out, this really falls apart whenever you have a large group.

My problem with consensus decision-making is two fold. One, I have found that it silences those who know they are in the minority. Most people don’t want to be obstructing a larger group. If one or a few people can hold up proceedings, you have to really be committed to people hating you in order to do that. Second, if you do have that commitment, the entire group grinds to a halt. If the minority is irreconcilable, there’s no way for the group to continue without either the people giving in or leaving the group, neither of which is good.

You simply have to have majority decision making with the opportunity to dissent in good conscience without grinding a movement to a halt. OWS is finding this out, but it is causing a lot of tensions when people realize their utopian idea of consensus doesn’t adapt well to the reality of a large (or even small) social movement. People naturally disagree, that’s a good thing, and groups have to find a way to deal with this outside of an unanimity that will never happen.

Update: This is somewhat related and is brilliant, especially the end.

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