Convergence as an Example of a Medium Scale Acephalous Group

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* PhD Thesis: CONVERGENCE AS AN EXAMPLE OF A MEDIUM SCALE ACEPHALOUS GROUP. Thesis submitted to the Arts and Business Faculty, University of the Sunshine Coast for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. by Victor MacGill. February 2016


Under the supervision of Dr Marcus Bussey, Dr Peter Innes and Dr Jose Ramos.


"The dominant neo-liberal paradigm under which western society is operating has led to enormous disparities in wealth so a small minority wield power over the mass of the population. It has led to poverty, environmental degradation, oppression, wars, refugee migrations, such that the very survival of the human race may be in question.

This neo-liberal paradigm uses top-down, dominance based hierarchies to maintain control. They divide people and retain status and resources in the hands of the few. There is structural violence built into the fabric of the paradigm which has been incorporated into the accepted mind-set to the point that alternatives to top-down dominance hierarchies are rarely even considered. Most people simply accept that there will always be leaders and followers.

There is a need to develop alternative ways we come together and organise ourselves that are more humane, life sustaining and reduce structural violence. The peer to peer movement is promoting different forms of commons based projects enabling the free co-operation of equals without any intermediary body taking control. They include work/housing/food co-operatives, intentional communities, computer based networks like Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring,

One form of peer production is the use of acephalous (without a structured on-going leadership) organisational structures. They occur at a very wide range of scales and intensities of operation. The particular structure chosen for an acephalous organisation will depend in particular on its scale and intensity of operation.

The Convergence gathering is considered as a case study of a medium scale acephalous organisation that is able to operate under conditions not normally considered viable. Convergence is a network of people interested in alternative lifestyles who come together for five or six days each New Year. From three to five hundred people gather with nobody in charge and yet all the functions normally expected still occur. For the past thirty years Convergence has been developing its acephalous mode of operation. Convergence is not a perfect organisation by any means, but it has proved to be robust and resilient over the years of operation.

This research was undertaken using constructivist Grounded Theory to gather and analyse the data. Complex systems, futures studies and social capital were three perspectives used to deepen the investigation to gain an enriched understanding of the organisation.

Convergence is not a blue print for other organisations, but broad patterns established in this research will assist anyone considering establishing an acephalous organisational structure. Exploring comparison groups added a level of generalisability and overview of the range of acephalous organisations. This research aims to be a part of the work to help to bring about a more humane world with less conflict and division."

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