freeman structure law (?)

[note: i could be misinterpreting both jo and david here – well.. i could be misinterpreting everything/all-the-pages/et-al.. but do want to point it these may not be jo’s/david’s bend]

completely misread freeman’s essay, and interpret it not as a plea for formal mechs to ensure equality, but as a plea for more transparent hierarchy.. 


more about needing formal mechs than transparency

from david graeber‘s utopia of rules:


the single most important essay in this whole activist tradition is called ‘the tyranny of structurelessness’.. written in 70s by jo freeman, about org crises that occurred in early fem consciousness raising circles when those groups began to attain a certain size..

not about size or formal ness.. about a mech being simple accessible/resonating enough for 8b people.. today

freeman structure law (?)structurelessness – et al

[first read/noted all this in interpretive labor from David‘s revolution in reverse]

Jo Freeman ness

freeman observed that such groups always started out w w kind of rough and ready anarchism an assumption that there was no need for any formal parliamentary rules of order type mechs at all.. people would just sit down in a sisterly manner and work things out

problem was in our thinking that essence was to ‘work things out’.. rather than to live as if already free ness (where if 8b people legit free – working out ness becomes irrelevant)

we haven’t yet seen this.. because we’ve not yet tried a mech/infra accessible/resonating to all of us

and this was indeed what happened at first.. however, as soon as the groups grew to over, say twenty people.. informal cliques invariably began to emerge and small groups of friends or allies began controlling info, setting agenda, and wielding power in all sorts of subtle ways..

but.. this is not natural for legit free people w ie: gershenfeld something else law et al.. just what whales/rats in sea world/cage would do


freeman proposed a number of diff formal mechs that might be employed to counteract this effect, but for present purposed.. the specifics don’t really matter..

but specifics that ‘no mech to date has legit been for 8bn in sync’ matters ginormous.. that’s what’s diff today.. and we’re missing it..

suffice it to say that what is now referred to as ‘formal consensus process’ largely emerges form the crisis freeman described, and the debate her intervention set off

yes. mechanism. huge.

so what if we did have a mechanism.. that perpetuated self-organizing/regeneration.. a starting over ness (at minimum) everyday.. because decision making is unmooring us law and public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

what we need: a mechanism simple enough

tech as it could be..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

what i do want to bring attention to is that almost everyone who is not emerging from an explicitly anti authoritarian position – and no insignificant number even of those who are –

completely misread freeman’s essay, and interpret it not as a plea for formal mechs to ensure equality, but as a plea for more transparent hierarchy.. 


more about needing formal mechs than transparency

freeman structure law (?) et al


from Jo Freeman’s wikipedia page:

The most widely known is The Tyranny of Structurelessnesswhich argued ..

there is no such thing as a structureless group; power is simply disguised and hidden when structure is unacknowledged.

from David Graeber‘s insight/share of Jo Freeman’s the tyranny of structurelessness in his (utopia of rules) bureaucracy:

As activists sometimes put it: in most circumstances, if you bring together a crowd of people, that crowd will, as a group, behave less intelligently, and less creatively, than any single member of the crowd is likely to do if on their own. Activist decision-making process is, instead, designed to make that crowd smarter and more imaginative than any individual participant. It is indeed possible to do this, but it takes a lot of work. And.. 

the larger the group, the more formal mechanisms have to be put in place.

i’m thinking this is formal enough to go as large as we want w/o compromising our most important energy source: the energy of 7bn alive people – a ginorm/small formal mech put in place for 7bn people from the get go

bot ist art ist entire cleanerest

perhaps what we’re missing.. (failing to get back/to) is an undisturbed ecosystem‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

wengrow/graeber top down law: ‘There is no reason to believe that small-scale groups are especially likely to be egalitarian, or that large ones must necessarily have kings, presidents, or bureaucracies. These are just prejudices stated as facts.. there is absolutely no evidence that top-down structures of rule are the necessary consequence of large-scale organization.’

The single most important essay in this whole activist tradition is called “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,”170 written in the 1970s by Jo Freeman, about organizational crises that occurred in early feminist consciousness-raising circles when those groups began to attain a certain size. Freeman observed that such groups always started out with a kind of rough-and-ready anarchism, an assumption that there was no need for any formal, parliamentary rules-of-order type mechanisms at all. People would just sit down in a sisterly manner and work things out. And this was, indeed, what happened at first. However, as soon as the groups grew to over, say, twenty people, informal cliques invariably began to emerge, and small groups of friends or allies began controlling information, setting agendas, and wielding power in all sorts of subtle ways. Freeman proposed a number of different formal mechanisms that might be employed to counteract this effect, but for present purposes, the specifics don’t really matter. Suffice it to say that what is now referred to as “formal consensus process” largely emerges from the crisis Freeman described, and the debate her intervention set off. What I do want to bring attention to is that almost everyone who is not emerging from an explicitly anti-authoritarian position—and no insignificant number even of those who are—..

completely misread Freeman’s essay, and interpret it not as a plea for formal mechanisms to ensure equality, but as a plea for more transparent hierarchy.

so perhaps formal ish mech.. (that Jo and/or others haven’t yet seen).. would be one that’s simple enough for all of us.. one that focuses on self-talk as data… so that the small can remain ginorm small no matter how many people.. even beyond 8 bill..

ie: redefine decision making.. disengage from consensus.. decision making is unmooring us law et al

perhaps mech simple enough wasn’t yet imagined… to fit in mind/rationale/practicality of interpretive labor…. but now it is… now we can… which means we don’t have to continue compromising/misunderstanding/misconceiving.. smaller-size/intent issues because of larger-size/agenda issues

ie: a means to undo our hierarchical listening

more formal versions on same principles … always compromise all of us ness
has to reain… antifragile/stigmergic/rhizomatic/et-al


lord of the flies, tragedy of the commons, run amok ness.. usually assumed if no assumed/prescribed/top-down/et-al structure.


richard barlett‘s take on hierarchy and jo’s structure less ness [] – more on his page

More than just an abstract semantic debate for word nerds, I believe that this fascination with “hierarchy” and “non-hierarchy” is a major problem. Focussing on “hierarchy” doesn’t just miss the point, it creates cover for extremely toxic behaviour..t

thinking graeber & wengrow back and forth law and art/ists vs bot/ists ness

jo freeman: ‘Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the people involved..“This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free” social science, or a “free” economy. ..Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, (…) usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.’

freeman structure law et al

Freeman uses the word “structureless”, which is specific to the context of her 1960’s feminism. Today, you could swap “structureless” for “non-hierarchical” and get a very accurate diagnosis of a sickness that afflicts nearly every group that rejects hierarchical structures.

I think words like “non-hierarchical”, “self-managing” and “horizontal” are kind of vague codes, pointing to our intention to create healthy power relations. In the past, when I said “Enspiral is a non-hierarchical organisation”, what I really meant was “Enspiral is a non-coercive organisation”. That’s the important piece, we’re trying to work without coercion..t

coercion et al

perhaps what we need most is a mech to facil a non hierarchical listening to every voice everyday..  ie: tech as it could be (we’ve still got that hierarchical form of listening to each human.. everyday)


@RichDecibels @EmmaBurnell_ @SimonFParker @beingMicahWhite more like a complete misunderstanding of the same text every would-be leader always mis-quotes. Did you actually READ Jo Freeman’s argument? All the way to the end? She is about how

using structure to ensure leadership DOESN’T emerge.

She says it very explicitly.

Original Tweet:

@RichDecibles Replying to @davidgraeber @EmmaBurnell_ and 2 others If you want to read my article and critique it, I’m down for that.

see the rich‘s pages for mine

not about no structure.. but about who’s crafting it (has to be everybody) and when (has to be ongoing)

hier archy ness et al


rethinking cities


on structure ness

Nathan Schneider (@ntnsndr) tweeted at 9:23 PM on Mon, Jun 15, 2020:
1. @Angelfire still exists (but does not have SSL)
2. It is a place where you can read Cathy Levine’s response to “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” “The Tyranny of Tyranny”:

from cathy levine’s tyranny of tyranny:

What we definitely don’t need is more structures and rules, providing us with easy answers, pre-fab alternatives and no room in which to create our own way of life. What is threatening the female Left and the other branches even more, is the ‘tyranny of tyranny’, which has prevented us from relating to individuals, or from creating organisations in ways that do not obliterate individuality with prescribed roles, or from liberating us from capitalist structure.

The aim of feminist revolution is for women to achieve our total humanity, which means destroying the masculine and feminine roles which make both men and women only half human. Creating a woman’s culture is the means through which we shall restore our lost humanity.

non binary ness

Psychic crippling of its citizens makes its citizens report to work, fight in wars, suppress its women, non-whites, and all non-conformists vulnerable to suppression.

The origin of the small group preference in the women’s movement -and by small group I refer to political collectives – was, as Joreen explains, a reaction against the over-structured, hierachical organisation of society in general, and male Left groups in particular. But what people fail to realise is that we are reacting against bureaucracy because it deprives us of control, like the rest of this society; and instead of recognising the folly of our ways by returning to the structured fold, we who are rebelling against bureaucracy should be creating an alternative to bureaucratic organisation.. t The reason for building a movement on a foundation of collectives is that we want to create a revolutionary culture consistent with our view of the new society; it is more than a reaction; the small group is a solution.

ie: 2 convers as infra.. to undo our hierarchical listening

Because the women’s movement is tending towards small groups and because the women’s movement lacks direction at this time, some people conclude that small groups are to blame for the lack of direction. They wave the shibboleth of ‘structure’ as a solution to the strategic stalemate, as if structure would give us theoretical insight or relief from personal anxieties. it might give us a structure into which to ‘organise’, or fit more women, but in the absence of political strategy we may create a Kafkaesque irony, where the trial is replaced by a meeting.

Rather than calling for the replacement of small groups with structured, larger groups, we need to encourage each other to get settled into small, unstructured groups which recognise and extol the value of the individual. Friendships, more than therapy of any kind, instantly relieve the feelings of personal shittiness – the revolution should be built on the model of friendships.

augment our interconnectedness

rather than ‘friendliness’ – a toxic word.. let’s build it (the connections) on daily curiosities  ie: cure ios city

The omnipresent problem which Joreen confronts, that of elites, does not find solution in the formation of structures. Contrary to the belief that lack of up-front structures lead to insidious, invisible structures based on elites, the absence of structures in small, mutual trust groups fights elitism on the basic level – the level of personal dynamics, at which the individual who counters insecurity with aggressive behaviour rules over the person whose insecurity maintains silence. The small personally involved group learns, first to recognise those stylistic differences, and then to appreciate and work with them; rather than trying to either ignore or annihilate differences in personal style, the small group learns to appreciate and utilise them, thus strengthening the personal power of each individual.

even deeper than that..

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

Given that each of us has been socialised in a society in Which individual competition with every other individual is the way of existence, we are not going to obliterate personal-styles-as-power, except by constant recognition of these differences, and by learning to let differences of personal style exist together. Insofar as we are not the enemy, but the victims, we need to nurture and not destroy each other. The destructive elements will recede gradually as we grow stronger. But in the meantime we should guard against situations which reward personal style with power.

all red flags..

All across the country independent groups of women began functioning without the structure, leaders and other factotems of the male Left, creating independently and simultaneously, organisations similar to those of anarchists of many decades and locales. No accident either.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity..   simultaneous fittingness..  everyone in sync..


nathan on tyrannies

New Podcast Episode!
The Meaning of ‘Tyranny of Openness’ with @ntnsndr
Panelist: @coderberry, @piamancini, @jdorfman, @richlitt, @allengunn
Original Tweet:

6 min – nathan: on jo freeman – saying .. when you claim to be structureless .. you are often importing in a tyranny.. that’s recurred in sv tech.. afterlife.. so i used tyranny of openness.. just a way to pose challenges to openness.. that they’ve neglected tyrannies arising within .. to be more intentional about how tools are used

8 min – nathan: on how tools we use lead us into feudalist structures.. ie: mailing lists are very feudal.. either you’re an admin or you’re not.. lots have this admin aspect..  if we had tools that had cool governance built in.. would so many of our projects be structured around this..

11 min – pia: what we need is structure that helps us manage the power.. what would that look like..t

2 convers as infra.. to undo our hierarchical listening

nathan: to me.. an open question that i’m really interested in the answer to.. two ie’s: creative commons; open the floodgates – meta governance project – what would it be like for people to build own governance tools..

13 min – nathan: people who like governance and rules and processes of instruction.. have a kind of distorted view of world because they don’t realize most people don’t care about those things at all.. and that those things have a violence to them and destroy culture/community.. so i have to enter this convo w a recognition that my bias is as someone who likes this stuff.. so i have to be wary of them.. and try them out.. and see what the world does.. what i can learn from regular people who are less.. kind of .. distorted in their vision.. what would be useful for you.. would you want to play w governance or get it over with

14 min – nathan: do we start at mech level or general level (democracies et al).. one useful pattern for me.. governance optimized for decision rather than action.. middle class activist obsessed w decisions.. working class taught to do stuff.. get the job done

16 min – nathan: democratic mediums was my attempt to collect some of these patterns.. this longing people had for the one true voting system.. i was thinking about things like friendship.. eloquence..  if ever played around w some of these.. find they have their tool w beautiful voting system.. by see most of their time not on tool but on telegram.. trying to keep track of what everybody’s talking about.. reinventing in background and pretending tech is running the show..

19 min – nathan: wonder if people in school get embeds of class.. from hierarchy built in

again.. what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening

21 min – nathan: how some tyrannies arise.. these kind of happy tyrannies.. the subtext often driving communities if not clear where power lies (what jo was getting at)

24 min – nathan: coop idea is to put resources under control/accountability of users

27 min – nathan: what’s the response to open source still perpetuating insecurities (paraphrase)

gershenfeld something else law

29 min – nathan: on community rule.. this is a result of my impatience.. can’t wait for governance calculations.. we were longing for mutual aid networks around ie: virus.. what about the governance file..  so community rule set up to let people publish their little set of rules.. an attempt to start w natural language and experiment .. so that simple governance norms are embedded in our communities

32 min – pia: what blueprints can we put together for governance..

oi.. let go

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people