Inclusive Democracy

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Inclusive Democracy = Political Theory developed by Takis Fotopoulos and associates

Book: Towards An Inclusive Democracy. London & New York: Cassell, 1997

"Inclusive Democracy is a movement "for direct political democracy, economic democracy (beyond the confines of the market economy and state planning), as well as democracy in the social realm and ecological democracy. In short, Inclusive Democracy is a form of social organisation which re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature.

The concept of Inclusive Democracy is derived from a synthesis of two major historical traditions: the classical democratic and the socialist. It also encompasses radical green, feminist, indigenous and liberation movements in the South.

From the Inclusive Democracy perspective the world is in a multidimensional crisis, caused by the concentration of power in the hands of various elites, as a result of the establishment of the system of market/growth economy, representative democracy and the related forms of hierarchical structures. Inclusive Democracy is therefore not seen as a utopia but as probably the only way out of the present crisis." (

Michel Bauwens on Inclusive Democracy and P2P

During the last few days, I have been thinking about a neo-libertarian movement called Inclusive Democracy, and its call for a marketless and stateless society, and its rejection of anything that falls short of that elusive goal.

It has been a useful exercise to think about how the "peer to peer approach" is different:

- P2P theory does not seek in perfect state of society, but rejoices in any movement that marks a change for the better. That 'better' being defined as more free, autonomous, free and equal social processes that enhance our changes for survival and a meaningful life

- P2P does not seek a universal abstract utopia (marketless, stateless), but a differentiated social order based on 'complex equality', and a rich mix of 'concrete utopias', i.e. changes proposed in many areas of ameliorating a current process of production or governance. Thus, it acknowledges four types of intersubjectivty not just one communal form. Though, I personally abhor the current economic order, and think it is a major structural cause for the multidimensional crises that we are going through, I am not opposed on social practices that attempt to make the current economic system better (natural capitalism adepts for example), or even the Millenium Goals, even though 'by themselves' they may be insufficient.

- P2P theory does not start from any vision of 'how things should be', but start from currently 'emerging' autonomous processes, i.e. how today's humanity, with its current form of desire for autonomy and cooperation, invents new social processes that are more in harmony with it. There is no blueprint for a better tomorrow, but a spontaneous unfolding of human creativity, and an attempt to create supportive social institutions and processes.

- P2P theory aims to be integrative, i.e. to honour initiatives throughout the social fields, taking place within the four intersubjective typologies. It does not see why free software should be opposed to the basic income, or why the basic income should be opposed to the movement for complementary currencies. All have their place, and P2P aims to uncover the common ground between them, to network the various initiatives into a more coherent global movement.

- That does not mean that P2P theory wants to be wishy washy and has no "enemies", the enemy however, is not a person or a group of persons, it is that part in all of us which opposes free and autonomous cooperation, that is afraid of it, or wants to preserve its own personal power against it (from P2P News 92)

More elaborate explanation by Takis Fotopoulos:

"What is inclusive democracy? I think it is important to stress that the inclusive democracy project is not just an economic model, but it is a broader political project, which aims to remake society at all levels, at the political level, the economic level, the social level, and, of course, in the ecological sphere. The overall aim of the inclusive democracy project is to create a society in which people determine themselves, in which, in other words, the "demos", as it was the classical concept for the people, has overall control over the political sphere, the economic sphere and, the social sphere in general. So the inclusive democracy project, in a sense, is a synthesis of the two major historical traditions, the socialist tradition and the democratic tradition, and also of the currents that developed in the last 30 or 40 years, the new social movements, i.e. the feminist movement, the ecological movement, the identity movements of various sorts, and so on. In other words, the inclusive democracy project is a synthesis of all those historical experiences, of the socialist and also the democratic tradition and all those new social movements. In this sense, we can say that the inclusive democracy project is neither a theoretical construct, as it is the product of all those historical experiences, nor is it a utopia - and it is not a utopia because there are already trends all around us leading to a society which in various aspects resembles the inclusive democracy society. Thus, there are all over experiments going on with alternative institutions and whenever there is an insurrection, like for example the recent Argentinean one, we have seen people organizing themselves in general assemblies and trying to organize political and economic life according to principles which, like the principles that I'm going to explain in a moment, are the principles of the inclusive democracy project.

The four components of the inclusive democracy society are: first, political or direct democracy; second, economic democracy; third, democracy at the social level; and fourth, ecological democracy. So let's see briefly what we mean by each of those components. Political or direct democracy means the authority of "demos", of the people, over the political sphere. In other words, political democracy implies that it is the people collectively that take decisions about all political affairs, and directly, without representatives, because what we call representative democracy today is a fake democracy, since there can be no representation of my will, of anybody's will; that is, you can either express your will directly, or you can simply delegate certain kinds of wishes you have, but you cannot have somebody else decide for you. So political or direct democracy is the type of society where people directly and collectively decide for themselves on all important aspects of political life. That means that in a direct democracy every resident in a particular area takes part in the democratic process. We shall assume that usually this will not be a community of more than thirty to fifty thousand people.

In the same way that we define political democracy as the authority of demos over the political sphere, we can define economic democracy as the authority of demos over the economic sphere. This means that it is the citizen body, that is, all people at mature age - which is decided by the assemblies - all people at a certain age who decide, i.e. take decisions on all major economic problems, particularly those affecting the meeting of basic needs. In an inclusive democracy there should be no private ownership of productive resources, of the means of production, but instead the productive resources should be owned by the demos, i.e. there should be demotic ownership of the means of production.

The third component of inclusive democracy is democracy at the social level; that means at the microlevel, at the level of the workplace, the household, the educational place, and so on. In all those places, there should be democracy in the sense that there should be equal distribution of power. There should be no distinction between workers working in a workplace, there should be, in other words, equal distribution of power between men and women, between teachers and students or pupils, and so on. And, finally, we have the fourth component of inclusive democracy, the ecological democracy component, which means that the inclusive democracy aims to create the subjective and objective conditions so that man is reintegrated into nature, society is reintegrated into nature. This is important because what we have today is a situation where society is separate from nature. We see nature as an instrument to achieve certain objectives - the main objective is economic growth, of course - and, as a result, we suffer the crisis that we have at the moment, a serious ecological crisis."

The economic democracy proposals of Takis Fotopoulos of the Inclusive Democracy movement. More details at

"So the question is how we can have a system that on the one hand secures the satisfaction of the basic needs of all citizens, and on the other hand secures freedom of choice. For this, the proposal of the inclusive democracy project is to combine the planning element, which would be especially useful as regards the meeting of basic needs, with the market element - not in the sense of a real market like the present one, but in the sense of an artificial market that I'm going to explain in a moment. As you can see in this simple diagram,... at the bottom of the pyramid you can see "citizens decide". And there you can see that it is citizens who decide production, decide consumption, decide work. In other words, all the important decisions are being taken by citizens. This is not accidental because you should not forget that this is a model of an economy which is stateless, in other words, it does not presuppose a state; it's moneyless, in the sense that it does not presuppose money the way we know it today; and it is marketless, in the sense that there is no real market but an artificial market. Thus. it is basically citizens who decide.

So let's move first to the consumption side of the economy. There, you can see that citizens decide as consumers how to allocate their income, which comes in the form of vouchers. That is, citizens in exchange for the work they offer to society, are rewarded with vouchers. Now, we may distinguish here between basic and non-basic vouchers. Let's start first with the basic vouchers on the right. We can estimate the number of man-hours that people have to offer to society, to the community, so that their basic needs are satisfied. The planners, in other words, on the basis of estimates about what are basic needs - and what are basic needs is decided democratically, not objectively, because if you introduce the element of objectivity, then you may easily end up with all sorts of arbitrary decisions, so, democratically, citizens decide which needs are basic and also what should be the level of satisfaction so that the basic needs, say food or clothing or whatever, are satisfied - and, also on the basis of estimates about the size of the population and the entitlement of each citizen to particular basic needs on the one hand, and on the other hand, on the basis of technological averages, can find out what is the total number of basic hours (and, correspondingly, the basic vouchers) that should be offered in a community, of say thirty or fifty thousand people, so that its basic needs are satisfied. The non-basic vouchers are issued to citizens who would like to work over and above the minimum requirement that is needed for the satisfaction of basic needs. Let's say that planners have estimated that everybody has to work three hours a day so that all basic needs are met. If somebody wants to work more than three hours, either in the same line of activity or in a different one, then he is rewarded for this with non-basic vouchers, which he can use to buy commodities - i.e. goods and services that are of non-basic nature.

The question that arises with respect to non-basic vouchers is how we can determine the rates of exchange, in other words, the "prices" at which work is exchanged with non-basic vouchers. For basic vouchers that is no problem because everybody has to work a minimum number of hours to meet his or her basic needs. But with non-basic vouchers there is a question of what is the rate of remuneration. Now, here, we can take into account - and that's why I talked before about an artificial market - the demand and supply conditions of the past. In other words, if, say, a mobile is characterized as a non-basic good by the assemblies and if, say, over the past six months, in this community, there has been an offer of, say, 100 000 non-basic vouchers in the purchase of mobiles, and with these 100 000 vouchers people could buy 1 000 mobiles because that was the total production of mobiles, then, if we divide the number of vouchers used in the purchase of mobiles by the number of mobiles produced, we get 100. So the price of a mobile is 100 non-basic vouchers. And, similarly. we can find out the price of any other non-basic good, in other words, by taking into account what production took place over a period of time and, also, what the demand for this particular type of good and service was. This way, therefore, we start with actual demand and actual supply conditions rather than - and this is a major drawback of most planning systems - by asking people in advance what they wish to buy and then calculating accordingly, through the planning mechanism, what is to be produced. The disadvantage of all these types of planning is that people have to decide six months or a year in advance what exactly they are going to buy, which, of course, is something that seriously restricts freedom of choice.

So, let's move now to the production side of the economy. As you can see, citizens decide the production targets in demotic assemblies on the one hand, and workplace assemblies on the other. Now, demotic assemblies are perhaps the most important body of decision-making in the inclusive democracy. It is the assembly of the demos, the assembly of the citizen body in a particular area. The demotic assembly takes decisions on all aspects of economic and political and social life. As regards economics in particular, it takes decisions on the basis of the plan which is designed at the confederal level, which we are going to see in a moment. Thus, the demotic assembly, on the basis of the confederal plan instructions, as we have seen before, estimates what the basic needs of the people would be and how many hours each has to work. Then, on the basis of these instructions, the demotic assemblies give instructions to the various workplace assemblies of what the work tasks are - that is, what they have to produce in order to meet the basic needs of the people. However, both demotic and workplace assemblies refer to the local level. But there are also problems of regional, or national, or even continental significance. That's why we also need what we may call regional assemblies, as we can see in the diagram, which decide on problems that cannot be decided at the local level. This is because, in principle, all main decisions are taken at the local level but there are also problems which cannot be solved at the local level - take transport, take energy, take communication. You cannot solve this sort of problems at the local level, so there should be a regional assembly - consisting of delegates from demotic assemblies - which however only co-ordinates; it does not take decisions. That's important, the regional assembly is only an administrative council, it's not a policy-making body - remember, we have delegates, not representatives. So, from demotic assemblies, a number of delegates are elected to the regional assembly, in order to implement the decisions of demotic assemblies.

Finally, we have confederal assemblies, which are the highest economic organ of the inclusive democracy. And this means that an inclusive democracy cannot work only at the local level. Unless local democracies are confederated in a kind of confederal inclusive democracy, it is meaningless to talk about any reasonable allocation of resources. In fact, I could say that the three conditions of economic democracy are: first, what I mentioned before, demotic ownership of the means of production; second, self-reliance, that is, each local community, each demos, should be self-reliant, not in the sense of autarchy - autarchy is impossible today - but in the sense of relying on its own resources in order to meet as many needs as possible; and the third important principle that is implied by this economic democracy model is confederal allocation of resources, i.e. the allocation of resources takes place at the confederal level.

In a free society the question is who is going to do the unpleasant jobs and how we can meet demand and supply when, say, more people would like to do jobs that are very pleasant, versus the other type of jobs. Now, one solution that has been suggested is the idea of job complexes, which means that people can do a variety of work tasks. In other words, we can expand the meaning of the job, or type of job, to include as many work tasks as possible. For example, if you work in an office, you can do typing but at the same time you can be involved in other types of more interesting work in the office and in decision-taking as well, and so on. So, in this sense, the job complex idea does sort out the problem of how we choose jobs in certain kinds of activities. But this is not a panacea, that is, there are types of activities that we can think of where the idea of job complexes may not work, especially if you need a very high degree of training and skill in order to do a particular job. I cannot think of a job complex for a surgeon, say, or for a pilot. I cannot imagine the surgeon doing the cleaning as well, or helping the nurse give injections because that would be a waste of his time and of society's time, which is even more important. So, there should be some other way of expressing the desires of people as regards the type of work they choose.

As regards the non-basic type of work, there is a way that is proposed by the inclusive democracy system, which could sort out this problem. But as regards the basic type of work, I think the only solution to a serious mismatch between demand and supply is either rotation, (that is, people do various types of activities on rotation, so that you're going to do hard work like building or mining and then rotate), or that you reward people doing jobs for which there is not much demand with non-basic vouchers on top of the basic vouchers they have to receive anyway. As regards non-basic goods, if we move up to the diagram, then we can see that we have on the left the index of desirability and on the right the 'prices' of non-basic goods and services. These are the two basic elements that determine the rate of remuneration of non-basic work. The index of desirability is a complex index showing the desires of people as regards various types of work. First, a look at the index of desirability: We can design it as an inverse function of desirability, in the sense that the more desirable a job, a type of work is, the less the remuneration is, so that, in this way, we can have on the one hand satisfaction of the desires of people and on the other hand satisfaction of the needs of society, in the sense that for non-desirable work there should be higher remuneration - say, a builder or a miner should receive a higher remuneration than perhaps a university teacher if the university teacher's job is more in demand (because he gets more satisfaction from his work) than that of a miner or a builder. Furthermore, and that's important, we have an adjustment mechanism here at work, because if, say, in a particular type of activity there is not much offer for non-basic work, if, say, there are not many people who would like to do extra work in the production of mobiles, this would be reflected in the price of mobiles; the price of mobiles would go up as production of mobiles falls. But, as the price of mobiles goes up, the rate of remuneration would be going up as well, and this could attract more workers in the production of mobiles. So, that's in a nutshell how this model of economic democracy works. But as I said from the beginning, this is just a proposal to show that it is feasible to have a different kind of society meeting the basic needs of all citizens and at the same time meeting the demand for freedom of choice. And it is, of course, up to the general assemblies of the future to decide what exactly the form of their society should be."

More on Inclusive Democracy and its related proposals here at

Encyclopedia entry on ID,