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Terje Bongard’s Democratic Ingroup Model as specific form of p2p democracy?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
4th July 2013


The description comes from an appeal for collaboration related to a Norwegian research project, and looks very promising:

Terje Bongard:

“Analyzing and testing a sustainable ingroup democracy, including the money value analysis, and how a change to such a democracy may come by.

Our hypothesis is that the democracy model represents a political system that opens for a possible change from today’s focus on money profit to a focus on the products and services themselves, and their use and sustainability. This can be achieved in large societies by organizing representative democracy through ingroups in several levels, from each workplace up to national government (please refer to …MODEL.pdf). Each individual will, through workplaces, institutions or schools, be part of a functional ingroup, small enough for social control. Through 4-5-6 levels of representative elections, large societies can in this way be managed democratically. In short, by engaging everyone through an ingroup, we hypothesize that it will be possible to organize worker-owned, sustainable production, supervised and controlled by a democracy that may freely make use of today’s extensive knowledge concerning ecosystem services. When the purpose of work and production is the products and services themselves, a society and its members will naturally share a common interest in sustainable production: The driving forces behind profit and growth are not natural laws. This is the model we invite each of you to analyze from the perspective of your discipline.

Humans have evolved drivers that change behavior according to group size and level of exposure to others (Barkow, L. Cosmides, & Tooby, 1992; Gintis, 2009). Corruption, nepotism, oligarchy, egoism, and Tragedy of the Commons thrive in outgroup situations when there is lack of social control. Humans have evolved in small groups, and are equipped with cognitive drivers designed for such. Modern societies are too large for the ingroup strategies to dominate.

Scenario research has mostly been about «how it will go»; the underlying economic system is often treated as untouchable and unchangeable (see the enclosed document “Maintaining….pdf). Our project will go beyond this limit, and focus on the very foundation and purpose of human production and well-being.

There are three basic points:

The purpose of production is, today, ultimately profit. The concept of “value creation” is today synonymous with making profit. The attempts to cope with this value paradox by integrating ecosystem services with money value and profit, is struggling. (www.teebweb.org). Alienation and lack of democracy in these matters. Western democracies usually have elections every 4th year. Because of large, alienating societies and the basic conservative human nature, political alternatives are overall small and insignificant. The decisions that govern a sustainable and safe future are paradoxically taken by a few individuals employed for the purpose of maximizing each company’s profit, and who are not elected. Within today’s economy and policies, it is unlikely that unpopular and wide-ranging decisions or strategies concerning lower consumption will be accepted by a majority. Human behavior is not evolved to be individually prudent in outgroups. On the contrary, in the relatively near future it is by now likely that dramatic collapses will occur, because there are no effective control mechanisms in the international economy today. Human cultures have a history of over-exploiting their bases of existence, leading to fights over remnants (Diamond, 2005). This knowledge may put us in a unique position to prevent it to happen again. A complete democracy may be able to moderate conflicts by performing just distributions and rationing, that can be accepted and perceived legally in a society of legitimate equality (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010; Wilson, 1998).

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

We want to focus on an ultimate democratic ingroup model for our analysis . There are three reasons for this:

By focusing on the same hypothesis, different areas and disciplines may create more unified cross-disciplinary research. The results will be more relevant as a holistic approach, and pros and cons will be more commonly accepted. The conclusion might be that the democratic model might be impossible to implement, but during the process, new knowledge will be produced. By stretching the horizon as far as this, we might see possibilities on a closer range. The model is not chosen by random. It fits all modern behavioral sciences. Democracy, human rights, organizational freedom, solidarity, equality and just distribution are concepts that fit the model well. The ingroup model can be, and indeed already is, in use almost everywhere, in organizations covering all human activities. The reason to focus directly on workplace organization is that we need to organize the ownership to resources and consumption. This is the area that threatens the living conditions for us all, through the physical reality of existence. Each discipline or area of interest is invited to write its own application, including theoretical background, hypotheses, methods and empirical examples, by focusing on the four questions outlined below. Please bear over with the suggested wordings we have put down in the boxes, your area of research most certainly have other concepts or phrases. We have an extensive archive consisting of ideas and problem areas that could be filled in, but we await your responses: Use words and phrasings from your own field of expertise to fill in the matrix, and focus on the four main themes:

1. Today’s democratic and economic situation, acknowledging lack of sustainability (referring to documents from TEEB/MEA, IPCC etc., see also enclosed material).

2. Within your area of expertise, how will today’s situation cope with future scenarios of scarcity? Given the time perspectives from theme 1, how are the possibilities of adaptation? If not, how will potential collapses be?

3. How will the ingroup democracy model be functional within your area of expertise? The model suggests including every person over the age of 18. From your point of view, how will this be functional? Are there other areas than workplaces where ingroup organization can be fruitful (e.g. organizing gigacities)?

4. How can a transition to such a society be feasible? Does your discipline have any suggestions to smoothen a peaceful change to a sustainable economy and society?”

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5 Responses to “Terje Bongard’s Democratic Ingroup Model as specific form of p2p democracy?”

  1. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    Terje Bongard’s website http://WWW.BIOMAN.NO is now up running: http://www.bioman.no/

    At the right side under “dokumenter” you can download some English documents and an illustration modelling the ingroup-democracy-model.

    This model has its source of the meta-pattern found by Amotz Zahavi, the handicap principle, which is the strongest force of evolution, and which has formed human behaviour and how we interact.

    The handicap principle is a force with a dark and a bright side, where today’s mass-society grows the dark side of the force (almost like Star Wars(-;) through capitalism and modernism.

    F.ex. is the Alexandrine pattern 37, HOUSE CLUSTER, a superb illustration on how we can grow an ingroup-society and utilize the bright side of this force: http://www.patternlanguage.com/apl/aplsample/apl37/apl37.htm

    Also there are more patterns found in A Pattern Language with a direct link to the metapattern of the handicap principle.

    Anyway, it will take a long time before we can create a new society entirely centered around growing the enormous powers found in the bright side of the handicap principle.

    This is why we have to start with a democracy model linking this force to the most essential of society, production and the utilization of natural resources, as these are the very foundation of our existence and are today operating outside any democratic control.

    Another metapattern utilized in Bongard’s ingroup-democracy-model is the fractal like diversion of scales found in every sustainable natural system: http://kjpermaculture.blogspot.no/2013/03/toward-resilient-architectures-i.html

    This is a true bottom-up democracy carried by a diversion of scales, where the smallest scale, the in-group, is the very foundation.

    A democratic model reflecting at least two metapatterns of such importance is indeed very promising.

    Personally I hope to influence Bongard to utilize Alexander’s pattern-technology to incorporate the good forces found in the handicap principle on every aspect of society.

    I also hope to use biophilic design to “substitute” for today’s mindless consumerism: http://permaculturenews.org/2010/10/14/life-and-the-geometry-of-the-environment/

  2. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    “This model has its source of the meta-pattern found by Amotz Zahavi, the handicap principle, which is the strongest force of evolution, and which has formed human behaviour and how we interact.”

    Here I was not very precise, as evolution works in two ways, this is through natural selection and sexual selection.

    Natural selection is the way founded by Darwin, i.e. the survival of the fittest.

    Sexual selection is founded by Amotz Zahavi and works through the handicap principle, which is double sided, i.e. to show how unique wonderful you are (egoism), the peacock tail or ferrari car, or to show how generous and kind you are, like the Arabian Babbler (a kind of hidden egoism), which Zahavi studied for 40 years in the Sinai Desert.

    People can choose, unlike other animals, which side of the handicap principle they prefer to utilize according to the situation they are into, which has a LOT to do with design and organization.

  3. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    I just came to think about that we can name this new IGD (In-Group Democrazy) as Zahavism, after Amotz Zahavi. Darwinism is not what I’ll call evolutionary biology, as it was too linked with ideology:

    “In this context it is important to notice that a political economist, Thomas Robert Malthus, delivered the crucial cornerstone for the modern concept of biology as evolution. Malthus was obsessed by the idea of scarcity as explanation for social change – there would never be enough resources to feed a population which steadily multiplies. Charles Darwin, the biologist, adapted that piece of theory which had clearly derived from the observation of Victorian industrial society and applied it to a comprehensive theory of natural change and development. In its wake such concepts as “struggle for existence,” “competition,” “growth” and “optimization” tacitly became centerpieces of our self-understanding: biological, technological, and social progress is brought forth by the sum of individual egoisms. In perennial competition, fit species (powerful corporations) exploit niches (markets) and multiply their survival rate (return margins), whereas weaker (less efficient) ones go extinct (bankrupt). The resulting metaphysics of economy and nature, however, are less an objective picture of the world than society’s opinion about its own premises.” – Dr. Andreas Weber: http://wealthofthecommons.org/essay/economy-wastefulness-biology-commons

    See more on the subject in Weber’s essay Enlivenment: http://www.boell.de/publications/publications-enlivenment-publication-series-ecology-17364.html

    The point is that today’s societies and economical thinking is built upon individualism and competition, ie. Darwinism. Only in the 70ies sexual selection and the two sides of the handicap principles was understood, after Zahavi’s study of the Arabian Babbler. So the Sinai Desert and the Arabian Babbler has been just as important for understanding evolutionary biology as the Darwin Finches on the Galapagos Islands. Not many people have realized this.

    Another point is that humans, unlike other animals, can choose which side of the handicap principle we prefer to utilize depending on the zetting. Modernism and capitalism have together designed a society which give us no choice, to grow only the “dark”, individualistic and egoistic sides of the handicap principle. An in-group society will become the exact opposite.

  4. Michel Bauwens Says:

    and who is he?

  5. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    Hei Michel, I see I exaggerated a little, as I thought Zahavi discovered sexual selection as well. But I see now that Darwin discovered sexual selection, but he didn’t understand how it works. It was first with Zahavi the mechanisms behind sexual selection were understood, through the handicap principle.

    Anyway, most of human behavior and interactions can only be understood through an understanding of how the handicap principle and its two sides work. It’s maybe wrong of me to give “value” to these two sides as a “dark” and a “bright” side, as evolution has no values. Still, what should be grown in a resilient society is what I call the “bright” side of this force, as understood through Zahavi’s observation of the Arabian Babbler, a thrush bird, for 40 years.

    Bongard’s IGD (In-Group Democracy) is a direct transmission of Zahavi’s observations of this flock bird, the Arabian Babbler, into human system design. People interact through the same forces as found for this bird, just more subtle and complex because of our brain as our “peacock tail”.

    Bongard’s book, “The Biological Human Being”, has references to Zahavi’s work throughout the book.

    The Satin Bowerbird does in his book represent the opposite side of the handicap principle, the “dark” side, and this “dark” power is what is nourished in capitalist- and modernist society. This is the true “tragedy of the commons”, as in large out-group societies the “good” powers of the handicap principle breaks down.

    Here is a reference to an email-correspondence with Bongard:

    “As I see it Bongard’s in-group-model is just the backbone for a new and deeper democracy. What I love about it is that it is essentially fractal, as any resilient system: http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/March-2013/Toward-Resilient-Architectures-1-Biology-Lessons/
    SVÆRT INTERESSANT OBSERVASJON OG SAMMENLIGNING. DET ER NETTOPP NOE AV HOVEDPOENGET MED Å UTVIDE DEMOKRATIET HELT NED: DET BLIR IKKE ROM FOR INDIVIDER SOM RIVER OPP, MELER EGEN KAKE, KORRUMPERES OSV. LEGG MERKE TIL AT “INVASIVE SPECIES”-PROBLEMET HENGER SAMMEN MED DETTE: EN ART SOM IKKE FANGES INN AV NETTVERKET KAN ØDELEGGE DET I STEDET.”

    My translation of Bongard’s text: “VERY INTERESTING OBSERVATION AND COMPARISON. THIS IS SOME OF THE MAIN POINT OF EXTENDING DEMOCRACY ALL WAY DOWN: IT WILL BE NO ROOM FOR INDIVIDUALS THAT RIP UP, MAKES THEIR OWN CAKE, CORRUPTS ETC. NOTICE THAT THE “INVASIVE SPECIES”-PROBLEM IS LINKED WITH THIS: A SPECIE THAT NOT IS CAUGHT BY THE NETWORK CAN END UP DESTROYING IT.”

    My claim, and I’m sure Bongard agrees with me, is that if you don’t understand the handicap principle and how the forces within this principle directs human behaviour, you don’t have a foundation to build a resilient society or civilization upon.

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