Alexandra Devon responds
I really appreciate receiving a well-reasoned and respectful critique
of my article.
Some of the points you make regarding the possibility of abuse of
power in the consensus model are well taken. However, I think you
may have misinterpreted my intentions in writing the article. I
was not primarily interested in contrasting democratic and consensus
styles of operating, but rather in comparing good and bad process.
I was also not trying to put forward the view that consensus works
in (or is appropriate for) all situations (some people might, but
I'm not one of them). The type of group I was directing my comments
at primarily was the small group, the type which can fit into a
My main concern in writing the article was to discuss how social
change collectives could be places where people are nurtured and
empowered to do the work they came together to do. If people are
able to do this through means other than consensus then I'm happy
to hear it. Obviously, people need to develop ways of working with
each other which suit their needs but, far from driving people out
of political action, consensus has for many people - women, quieter
people, etc. - been an extremely validating experience, one which
made them feel that their voice mattered. The over-all goal, whether
pursued through consensus or democratic methods of operating, is
to equalize power, or at least to put the less vocal and experienced
individuals at a better advantage.
Published in Kick It Over! #18 and in the Connexions
Digest Volume 12, Number 1.