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A proposed governance model for the networked age, which seems to originate in the libertarian tradition:


Excerpts from the Polyarchy Manifesto at http://www.polyarchy.org/manifesto/english/present.future.html#polyarchy

"Polyarchy is the organization/diffusion of power in the age of universal electronic communication and ubiquitous cybernetic regulation.

While capitalism was based on machinery (capital) and production and statism on employment (labour) and consumption, Polyarchy is based on activities in which human beings rich in knowledge and wisdom interact with artefacts endowed with data and information, promoting the freedom and well-being of individuals and communities.

Polyarchy, advocating liberalism (freedom) against dirigism (restriction of freedom), does not mean a return to capitalism, for many reasons, moral and historical, the simplest of these being the fact that some of the components that produced capitalism (e.g. mechanical devices) are no longer there. We have gone, in social and technological terms, far beyond capitalism as a mechanical physical world has given way to an electronic virtual one and the central place occupied once by capital (stock of machines) has been taken by ideational activities (flux of creative ideas).

As statism had replaced capitalism, so Polyarchy is replacing statism which was/is the organization/concentration of power proper to a world dominated by bigness and brutishness, run by a bureaucracy that impeded variety, abolished flexibility and quite often obscured rationality.

Polyarchy is the organization proper to a cybernetic world of

- nodes (individuals, communities)

- nets (networks of communication, coordination, cooperation)

- paths (plurality of means of connection and forms of expression).

It is based on the empowerment of individuals and communities on a scale never before attained in human history.

While statism relied on the division of power between élites, in a centre, within the state, Polyarchy is based on the diffusion and multiplication of powers to individuals and communities, everywhere, without the state.

In fact, Polyarchy, fostering the ever wider and deeper spread of technology (e.g. communication) and consciousness (e.g. participation), challenges the very idea of centre and periphery and certainly its crystallization.

Through the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy aims at overcoming two historical divisions:

- the centre-periphery division (also known as the town-country division) : each community becoming an active node (a centre) in the network

- the dominant-dependent division (also known as the manual-intellectual division) : each individual becoming a protagonist (a player) in the community and in the network.

Whenever and wherever compulsory and crystallized divisions of this type survive in the future, this would point to the persistence of statism, even if disguised by new phraseology.

Besides this focal point represented by the multiplication of centres, Polyarchy is based on specific

- principles

- protagonists

- processes.


Polyarchy advocates the following basic principles :

- autonomy : individuals and communities should be free to do everything that is not expressly declared as damaging another community or other individuals. This is in contrast with statism in general and the authoritarian state in particular where, through a proliferation of prohibitions, restrictions and impositions, we had reached the point where all that was not expressly allowed was forbidden.

- equity : while equality could mean uniformity, equity aims at fairness amongst individuals, that is acting in a reasonable, equitable, honest way.

- care : state welfare is replaced by individuals and communities caring for each other and propelling each other towards self-reliance instead of being pushed towards dependency. Leaving aside exceptional cases, the roles of caring and cared for are not permanently confined to the same individuals, as is the rule under bureaucratic statism, but are interchangeably played by everyone.

The putting into practice of these basic principles requires the proliferation and consolidation of new active protagonists as opposed to the many withdrawn and indifferent figures vegetating under statism.


Polyarchy is the result of and will result in

- polyvalent cosmopolitan individuals

- multi-cultural, multi-ethnic communities.

These two protagonists give life to a dynamic reality made of networks of

- cooperatives of production and distribution;

- local (regional, sub-regional) civic bodies (agencies) to provide for basic services (e.g. maintenance of roads) and to implement basic regulations (e.g. food safety).

The distinction between individuals and communities has nothing to do with the old ideological (i.e. fake) opposition between private and public that originated as the contrast between people deprived of access to state sinecures (i.e. the private person) and people granted them as state privileges (i.e. courtiers, sycophants, etc.).

Also the distinction between national (native, local) and foreigner (alien, stranger) loses any juridical relevance and becomes meaningless as everybody is free to move everywhere without any barriers being imposed by the states to impede/restrict their movement.

In fact, with the extinction of the state and of its bureaucracy, these false distinctions and hostile oppositions disappear and are replaced by the interaction of individuals and communities on a network continuum : from a maturing individual to a fully developed individual, to many individuals, to a small community, to many communities, to a world community made by a world of communities.

These rich and various interactions between protagonists (individuals, communities) animate the dynamic processes of Polyarchy.


Polyarchy is based on self-regulated, multi-regulated processes, at various interconnected levels.

In contrast with statism, which relies essentially on top-down decision-making processes, Polyarchy is built on reticular flows (information, decision, action) in which there is no visible centre or acknowledged fixed top.

The different hierarchical levels of bureaucratic statism have to be disposed of for the general principle of autonomy (self-rule) to be implemented. This principle simply advocates that those affected by the regulation should also be those who affect the decision concerning the regulation.

Furthermore, polyarchic entities, like biological organisms, react on a permanent basis and in real time to imbalances (by feed-back) and as thinking organisations, forecast and anticipate ways to solve problems (by feed-forward planning).

Reality is so dynamic that the state static way of solving problems through post factum administrative or legislative measures that take ages to propose and produce (let alone to implement) appears more and more to belong to a past era.

Now, the sclerotic administrative paraphernalia of statism must give way to the cybernetic processes of Polyarchy. They consist in the development of autonomous nodes interconnected by reliable nets through fast and flexible paths, where the variety (of situations) is matched by versatility (of actions) coupled with velocity (of decisions).

Polyarchy is the proper way for communicating/coordinating/cooperating in the age of the networked society, when inner moral principles replace once again outer imposed princes and principals and the human being is not any longer a cog in the machinery of the state, performing the same task time and time again, but the protagonist of a new inspiring play on the world scene and in world history.

Final considerations

The Zeitgeist of the 20th century has been the myth of the state, the protector, the dispenser, the 'alma mater' of the angst ridden masses. The angst has disappeared and the myth is falling apart. Only the state survives, by inertia.

But still, an intense struggle is going to be fought between the state and human beings/communities advocating Polyarchy. State bureaucracy will keep trying, till the end, to strike and fight autonomy with all sorts of old ideological weapons, shouting their litany against individualism, 'private' interest, anarchy. It is the same old game : to fabricate and spread hatred and fear; to promote and feed irresponsibility and foolishness.

It will find the usual band of old cronies, the authoritarian communist, the self-deluded liberal, the fake anarchist, the angry trade-unionist, the nation loving patriot, all under respectable banners (anarchism, ecologism, internationalism, anti-authoritarianism). Under these disguises they will try to pass and impose the usual stinking bag of monopolism, protectionism, paternalism, in a word, state strangulation. And, as usual, they will do this in the name of those they pretend to defend (the working class, the people in the developing countries, etc.) but whom they actually corrupt morally and oppress materially.

Human beings and communities need to be/become conscious of this ideological trash in order to unmask what lies behind it, i. e. the arrogance, greed and abject parasitism of the state.

We have to build our way out of the dead end triangle made by bureaucrats and politicians, degenerate and servile intellectuals, fake and corrupted welfare recipients. We must put an end to parasitism and pillage and replace it with production and participation in the enjoyment of goods and services conducive to ever more widespread well-being.

The nation state is decaying rapidly and we can already smell its incipient decomposition in the many cases of sleaze, corruption, misappropriation, injustice and violence that have been, and more and more are, part and parcel of the daily life of these huge parasitocracies. We must be careful about what replaces it because parasites have many tricks up their sleeves and they can invent many ways to keep people subordinate, morally, mentally and materially.

The master-slave, egoism-altruism dynamic, goes on forever. The pursuit of emancipation and liberation is a never ending strive.

Even Polyarchy is not the definitive solution. It will be only a period in history. Globalism and localism might very well change their meaning, giving way to further dynamics.

Probably the multiplication of centres will not be enough and there will be a move from Polyarchy to Panarchy, when every single individual and small community will aspire to become more and more a protagonist, a flourishing centre in its own right." (http://www.polyarchy.org/manifesto/english/present.future.html#polyarchy)

More Information

The Polyarchy site is at http://www.polyarchy.org/

See also our entries on Panarchy and Multigovernment