Tag Archives: Lester Frank Ward

Sociocracy FAQ

What Is Sociocracy.info?

Sociocracy.info is the first comprehensive website on Sociocracy. It is maintained by me, Sharon Villines, coauthor with John Buck of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy. It contains information on the history, principles, and practices of Sociocracy and a blog to answer questions from readers.

The sister site is A Deeper Democracy where I explore  sociocracy in as a method for better achieving the values and purposes of democracy

Harmony?

Gerard Endenburg developed the modern implementation of sociocratic values. His purpose was  to create a harmonious workplace. He believed that in order to do this members of his company had to be able to consent to their working conditions and to be able to self-organize, to take responsibility for planning and evaluating their work.

The dictionary definitions of harmony are  agreement, accord, harmonious relations, and a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.

In addition to Endenburg’s experience as a student in a sociocratic school noted for being a harmonious environment, he knew that research had shown  groups that work together in harmony are the most productive.

What is governance?

Governance means the way we steer ourselves. The way a boat is governed by the crew to keep the boat afloat and their own needs met as they move toward shore. It’s how we guide ourselves individually and in groups toward a common purpose.

In sociocracy, each person has a place in which they are equally respected and expected to assume leadership and governance responsibilities. They are in charge of fulfilling their roles and responsibilities—of steering themselves in harmony with the whole organization.

What is sociocracy?

Sociocracy is both a social ideal and a governance method. The ideal, developed along with the science of sociology, is an effective society that ensures freedom and equality for all. Unlike democracy, sociocracy is based in science and scientific method as well as social justice.

A “sociocracy” was first defined by French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Comte in 1850 and later popularized by American sociologist Frank Ward in the late 19th century. In 1926, Beatrice “Betty Cadbury Boeke and Cornelius “Kees” Boeke, both Quakers, pacifists, and educators, combined Quaker teachings  with the theories of Comte and Ward to create the first sociocracy in their residential-school community of 400 students and staff in the Netherlands. The school still exists and is still governed sociocratically.

It was a graduate of the Boeke’s school mentioned earlier, Gerard Endenburg who combined the Boekes’ principles with the modern science of cybernetics and best practices in business to create a sociocracy that worked in a highly competitive and complex business,

Endenburg’s purpose was to create in his electrical engineering company, Endenburg Electric, the harmony he had experienced as a student.

Why sociocracy and not democracy?

Sociocracy implements the knowledge of the sciences and the use of scientific method to guide decisions that result in the best solutions for everyone, not just the majority. Its objectives are the same as those of democracy: freedom and equality for all, but its methods ensure that these freedoms will be guaranteed.

In most democratic countries, majority vote is used to elect officials and make laws. In fact, voting is most often cited as proof that a government is democratic. Sociocracy has a set of principles and practices that ensure the effectiveness, Inclusiveness, and accountability that are required to fully implement democratic values.

What is particular to sociocracy?

Sociocracy is based on:

1. The ideal of a society that values equality and freedom for all. It practices transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness. It uses “no objections” as the ideal standard for governance decisions.

2.  Scientific discoveries and methods—measurement and evaluation are used to decide effectiveness and guide corrections. The organizational structure is designed to produce self-organization, resilience, and coherence—the characteristics  of harmonious systems.

Sociocratic principles and practices can be used to organize and govern the day-to-day operations of all organizations, including governments and businesses.

Does anyone do this?

Yes. Sociocracy is used world-wide in multiple kinds of organizations, large and small, business and nonprofit, religious and educational. There are centers in several countries and many consultants teaching and implementing the methods in organizations. Offshoots combining sociocracy with other governance and social  methods and techniques have been developed and taught.

The last frontier is national and local governance.

 

Advocating Sociocracy

Public Advocacy

By the late-nineteenth century it was clear that the democratic ideal on which the United States had been founded was not producing equal representation even for those allowed to vote. Nor was it providing a rational structure for social or economic leadership—at the local or national levels. Workplaces were autocratic, often brutally so.

The government was dominated by politicians who often had their own interests at heart or were ignorant of democratic values. Often only people who were loyal to party bosses were supported by political parties and anyone without that support was unlikely to be elected, or to stay in office.

At best, the democracy that promised citizens the ability to self-determine, to be free and equal, was ruled by the majority of voters only providing a different kind of autocratic domination for the minority. Since only men of European descent and of a certain status were allowed to vote, the flavor of an aristocracy prevailed in effect if not in practice.

And by the late nineteenth century, science was also beginning to lose its luster. The promises of proof and social improvements had not been realized. And leaders realized that science could be used for anti-social purposes as well as for the public good. It often focused on issues that had little to do with humanitarian concerns.

Frank Ward: Advocating Sociocracy

Lester Frank Ward in Yellowstone National Park with Fossil Tree Trunks, 1887American sociologist Lester Frank Ward was a vocal advocate of a sociocracy. He proposed a plan that was more likely to be implemented than Comte’s governance by scientists and was more vocal in arguing his points. He was highly critical of the government and the kind of person typically supported by the political parties.

In Ward’s sociocratic society, the government would be advised by an academy of scientists rather than the decision-making body as Comte had suggested. Ward advocated using the rugged individual as an ideal. Individuals who “pulled themselves “by their bootstraps.” If the government learned from and functioned as the highest performing individual did, it would be effective and productive. The individual “should be praised and even imitated.”

Ward himself was such a person. He worked as a clerk and attended college at night to earn degrees in botany and law. Eventually he became a paleontologist for the Federal Government. When he retired at age 65, he became a professor at Brown University. In 1903 he was elected the first president of the International  Institute of Sociology and in 1906, the first president of the  American Sociological Society. He published widely. It is in support and in criticism of his proposed sociocracy that the word first entered public consciousness.