Sometimes, institutions are so damaged, so clearly irrational – their purpose long since forgotten, their actual effects invisible to its members – that they cannot be reformed. Clogged by excessive hierarchy and bureaucratic ritual, they become defensive and wasteful so that at last their effectiveness is gone, their illegitimacy is naked and they are abandoned.
Walking away from corrupt institutions means losing resources. Of course, local community organisations should receive the resources of the state and transnational corporations, but neither will tolerate a deeper democracy oriented to people’s needs. Creating resourceful, smart, parallel institutions that serve the public good enables us to practice doing politics and to make collective decisions. This eventually translates into alternative institutional forms.
Democratic arrangements and institutions are those that increase and preserve the public capacity to make decisions. To survive, such arrangements are regularly revisited and adjusted, re-enacted and celebrated. Held in the hand and puzzled over, organisational designs focus our attention on the ebb and flow of information and the collective construction of meaning. They are not blueprints but stimulants, helpful and heuristic.
The puzzle is what to do when institutions go awry. As the Democracy Device shows, you can set up an Assembly of citizens and service it with a rotating and clever Council (Segment #2). You can move beyond representation (#3) and experiment with different forms of coordination and decision-making (#5). You can use these in your parallel institutions (#1), which will be set up when the state and the corporations finally withdraw entirely.
Through democratic action we evoke our own abilities and reveal how deeply those with power despise and fear us.