By uncovering their histories, Andy Blunden’s Origins of Collective Decision Making reveals a great deal about the character and feel of the consensus and majority decision-making paradigms. Blunden takes up a question that has received curiously little attention from scholars: how did political organizations in the English-speaking world come to adopt the paradigms of collective decision making that they use today? Blunden rightly points out that it is one thing to know when and where a decision-making paradigm was first used, and quite another to reconstruct the lines of influence by which that paradigm was traduced. It is not enough, he argues, to say that an idea is “in the air”: people always learn about political practices from specific sources. Somehow, majority rule became central to the “traditional decision-making procedures and structures of the social democratic and labor movements” by the end of the nineteenth century; somehow, consensus process, and the horizontalist style of which it is a component, came to define many late-twentieth and early twenty-first century anarchist and “alter-globalisation” groups.
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