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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Leaderful, not leaderless

October 7, 2011
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   We do not need theories so much as the experience that is the source of the theory.
     --R D Laing, The Politics of Experience

A request, maybe a plea, maybe even a demand:

forever bury the notion of 'leaderless,' and replace it with 'leaderful,' or its equivalent

#OWS seems to be offering the possibility of new kinds of experiences that might be the source of new ways of thinking. To the extent this is true, it is an awesome gift. The genius of the approach #OWS is using lies in the fluidity of its imagination. This is represented by the wisdom of the ?no demands' tactic. On the other hand, much of the baggage that is myopically and confusedly referred to as "the left" frequently represents the frozen thinking from the 60s and further back, thinking that is no longer relevant.

The frozen and the fluid are intertwined in the new unfolding across the nation. This is normal. It's how evolution and development works. Hopefully we are entering one of those creative moments in which what should have died already gets buried so that the new can ground itself in the wisdom and power of the old that is still of value. In such a moment each expression of frozen thought is an opportunity to thaw out our thinking processes. They are also opportunities to distinguish the old that is still full of life from the old that is dead.

The notion of "leaderless"-both the word and the ideas, and the underlying assumptions we have associated with it-is a notion that should have been buried in the 60s. From the beginning of its birth the use of this meme has been, at best, highly misleading and frequently insidiously destructive. Humanity thrives on leadership, not on its rejection and crucifixion.

Walking through Liberty Plaza one is struck by all signs of all kinds of leadership: a team of people preparing and distributing food; a woman sweeping the floor; coordinated divisions of labor; etc. This is normal for any creative situation.

The 60s fucked up royally to the extent that it equated leadership with top/down exploitation. For decades now people offering their best with open hearts were squashed in the name of ?democracy.' Simple-mindedness is lethal, but it feels good because it makes us feel like we know we are right. Conscious leadership is certain it can never be certain.

Thinking together is one the most difficult task human beings can take on. That is why there is so often not enough of it happening. Let this moment be the birth of a long-term ?leaderful' project in re-thinking leadership and democracy.

Maybe we can organize an ?official' burial of that meme ?leaderless' followed by its metamorphosis into ?leaderful.'

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