Gaian Democracies

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Refers both to a book with the same title and to a concept for world governance.

The World Governance concept


"Gaian Democracies are communities bound together by purposes and principles, and organised into a network of participative democratic governance." (


Key principles overview from

Component 1: Gaian systems (p110 of the book)

Key propositions:

  • Gaia is a system of interacting biological and material subsystems that have co-evolved together over billions of years and depend on each other.

  • Human beings are a species that has evolved like any other species, with all that implies in terms of interdependence, self-organisation and the other characteristics of evolved systems.

  • The Gaian system as a whole appears to be approaching one of its periodic system-shifts, a process which our industrial and agricultural activity is accelerating.

Component 2: Shared purposes and principles (p111)

Key propositions:

  • Gaian democracies will only become increasingly just and sustainable if their citizens understand, are committed to, and share, a set of purposes and moral and ecological principles.

  • Purpose and principles cannot be handed down from above. They must be developed through intensive participative processes.

  • Plans, programmes and policies are meaningless unless they have been derived from a shared set of purposes and the principles.

Component 3: Soft-systems concepts (p113)

Key propositions:

  • Soft-systems theory provides the basic concepts and processes for thinking, acting and learning together to understand the configuration of the existing system and to embark purposefully on reconfiguring it.

  • By understanding the difference between ‘wicked’ problems (arising from non-linear systems complexity) and ‘tame’ problems (arising from the characteristics of linear system), citizens will be able to think, act and learn together successfully.

  • Successfully reconfiguring our unjust and unsustainable Global Monetocracy and tackling the wicked problems it has created requires the adoption of a ‘purposeful’ or systems perspective, rather than mechanistic one.

Component 4: Paulo Freire's learning principles (p114)

Key propositions:

  • Dialogue liberates; monologue oppresses.

  • The best way to start learning is as part of a dialogue-rich group.

  • The richest learning begins with action, is shaped by reflection and leads to further action.

Component 5: Participatory change processes (p115)

Key propositions:

  • Participatory change processes enhance the capacity of complex human systems to self-organise, by building ever more precise levels of shared understanding.

  • Participatory change processes enable people to thrive in a situation of constant open-ended change, building optimism and trust, commitment, confidence and competence.

  • Participatory change processes nurture future liberating leaders.

Component 6: Liberating political leaders (p118)

Key propositions:

  • Liberating political leaders release the positive potential of people-power.

  • Liberating political leaders are committed to their own learning through engaging in the reconfiguration dialogues with their fellow-citizens.

  • Liberating political leaders replace a command-and-control culture of monologue with a culture of dialogue.

Component 7: Network government (p122)

Key propositions:

  • Network government will enable Gaian democracies to incorporate Schumacher’s principle of ‘subsidiarity’ at every level from the local to the global.

  • Network government enables participatory democracy to be extended beyond the local scale.

  • Network government improves societal efficiency, effectiveness and learning by minimising information overload within the different parts of the system.

The Book

Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power. By Roy Madron and John Jopling

Book about reforming the system through a systems approach



This book uses systems theory to analyse the current monetary system and suggest radical changes in its `protocol'. From a book review at the Prosperity site.

Gaia is the name of the Greek goddess of Earth. On the 10th June a new book, Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power by Roy Madron and John Jopling was launched at the London School of Economics.

"To illustrate the power of thinking in systems terms, John then took seven propositions about systems and used them to look at two different systems: the Global Monetocracy, today's highly dysfunctional system; and Gaian Democracy, a system designed with justice and sustainability in mind. The propositions were: thinking in systems terms means seeing whole systems; all human systems have a purpose; systems are self organising and self generating; all systems are always changing; systems go through various stages; systems sometimes get into a vicious spiral; and, while the imperative for change may come from outside the system, change takes place within it. John argued that the Global Monetocracy is a single system with money growth as its purpose; that it is self-organising, always changing and moving through different stages; and that it is currently in a vicious spiral. This, he said, is the system in which we are living today. By viewing the system in this way we are able to make sense of things that would otherwise be baffling, for example: why things are getting worse on so many fronts; why the authorities are failing to do anything about it; and why currently fashionable ways of attempting to influence politicians and their corporate partners are so unsuccessful. He emphasised that neither individuals nor any particular group within society are to blame. Rather the system as a whole is at fault.

So something new is required -- a strategy for reconfiguring the system as a whole -- and this is where Gaian Democracy comes in. This draws on the latest developments in understanding how systems change, and makes use of well-tested processes for bringing about change. In this way, human societies at all levels, from local to global, can learn to cope with the highly complex and difficult situations they face."

More Information

Participatory Democracy Networks


"Building on the ideas presented by Roy Madron and John Jopling in their inspirational book, Gaian Democracies, this paper tentatively presents a rough concept for a piece of information architecture to facilitate participatory democracy worldwide.

Accepting that soft systems thinking is fundamental for human survival, this paper examines activity on the internet and proposes that one solid piece of open source code will revolutionise the internet like Google did, but to far greater effect."