Introducing en route sociocratic elements to a radical worker cooperative – Orestis Varkarolis

Orestis Varkarolis: Introducing en route sociocratic elements to a radical worker cooperative: Lessons from a failed attempt

Speaker: Orestis Varkarolis is a founding member of Pagkaki which in turn is a founding member of a radical coalition of worker cooperatives in Greece. His PhD thesis (2020) is entitled ‘Developing theories and tools for resisting degeneration with the Worker Cooperatives’ Network of Athens’. He is also the author of ‘Creative Resistance and Anti-power’, a book published by Pagkaki (2012).

Presentation: Disorganization and overwhelmed general assemblies have long been documented to be the reality of radical worker cooperatives (Landry et al., 1985, pp. 46–48). Does sociocracy offer a way out that fits the vision of radical co-operators? In this presentation, we reflect upon a case study on an attempt to introduce bits of sociocratic governance into a radical cooperative in Greece. While organizing transparently in circles and opting for consent over consensus seemed compatible with the radical visions of co-operators, the working group powered model of decision making collapsed due to the lacking culture of self-regulation or collective control characterizing Pagkaki and like-minded collectives more generally (Mansbridge, 1973; Landry et al., 1985). In turn, a proposal was made to adopt a fail-safe mechanism to better ensure that things get done without the collective having to act in a bossy manner towards its members. The way the collective initially skilfully avoided this proposal and later ignored/rationalized the disorganization in place highlighted that introducing sociocracy is not a technical fix fit for all (radical) cooperatives. A necessary precondition for enjoying a working sociocratic system of governance requires a deeper understanding and acceptance of the necessary trade-offs required to promote effective democracy while incorporating democracy and bureaucracy

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