Could an "evil" organization run sociocratically? [discussion]

Here’s an interesting discussion I’d like to have.

The question is, could an “evil” organization run sociocratically? For example, let’s imagine an organization that has an aim to, let’s say publishing books. So the aims and mission and values and whatever are all related to that. As it happens, however, someone has a proposal that supports the aim in all the ways but also risks the lives of 100 people. No one would ever find out so there are no legal or financial repercussions. Protecting people’s lives is not mentioned in the aim, i.e. it doesn’t say publishing books without killing people.
If we define “objection” strictly as “doesn’t violate the circle’s or organization’s aim” then that means you can’t object against a proposal that kills people, in that scenario.

Lots of more thoughts so let me stop here.

@shala.massey @russell.baldwin @amelia.dreyer @julia.thayer @rhonda.baird @ahmed.avais And several others who started having the discussion with me. Any new thoughts?

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To me, it seems totally possible for an evil organization to run using sociocracy. I think someone might still object on moral grounds, but if the organization doesn’t have any sort of values statement then it does seem like it could go forward like you say in the example.

I’m slightly more worried about organizations that, while not “evil” strictly speaking, go against my values personally. Not that I am the arbiter of all things moral! But for example, if an oil and gas company started using sociocracy to more efficiently get drilling projects done, or if an extremist group uses sociocracy, those are things I would have qualms about.

I am already in contact with one group whose mission I absolutely disagree with (don’t want to get too divisive here so won’t name it) which started using sociocracy after meeting with me and I still feel weird about it.

Sorry to hear that experience is still lingering for you.

I mean, “evil” is really a vague statement. Given the complexities of the world, we’re all part of exploitive and extractive things somewhere. Almost impossible to avoid.

Yeah, good and evil are different to different people depending on your worldview, beliefs etc.
In the same way a brilliant leader (in terms of mobilising a group to collective vision) can be deemed evil, so too could a high functioning sociocratic organisation be deemed evil too. Sociocracy is a tool/methodology.

Regarding the objection question I think can be that the aim itself should adapt over time. Of course, you would not want it to be changed weekly to accommodation every new scenario. But an encapsulating aim as in “Publishing books without doing harm.”. The word aim speaks about “intention” or for me, intentionality. It is hard to capture an aim, or intentionality in one or two sentences.
I’ve seen some institutions go at length to explicitly define what that intentionality is through an organisation handbook/manifesto/culture deck. It seems that the reason the aim is simple is so that quick decision making. But if the decision is out-side of one’s range of tolerance, whether in line with the aim or not, objections should be raised. It would be a similar experience in line with NVC self-expression.

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Although I agree that ‘good / evil’ may be relative, it is also true that there may be parameters to measure the level of positive or negative impact that an organization has (SistemaB for example).

I suppose everyone could use sociocracy (as a tool) regardless of their level of ‘good / evil’, and to some extent it should be promoted (since sociocracy also invites active listening and caring for people), but I also believe that it should ‘cost’ more for an organization (with malicious practices) to hire our support than for an organization (which, because it does not extract value), does not have the resources to hire us.
So at least we channel resources (in the hope that talent will migrate on their own). :dove:

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Although in theory it is conceivable that sociocracy would work as a governance system within an “evil” organization, in practice the distribution of power would, at a minimum, cause fractiousness among those exercising it. This because at the heart of true “evil” is the need to hold all the power. Distributing it among those who equally want all the power seems anathema to anything that might be described as “governance”.

Equally, the distribution of power would risk its exercise by those who are “less evil” and perhaps unlikely to wholeheartedly support the evil aims of the organization.

I agree with this, @kathleen.livingston
Yes, it’s probably too much to say “it can’t happen” but effectiveness is certainly up when everyone is aligned and in integrity.

“good” and “evil” are relative concepts which depend on one’s morality. We’d have to choose a moral framework to share to have a definitive answer.

Since there are multiple moral frameworks, and someone could choose to do something with sociocracy which is evil in any given moral framework, then certainly,

However, I do think the pathway to self organized organizations doing evil things is a bit difficult to tread. In my experience they tend to fall apart when evil things start happening. They at least atrophy and malfunction, if they don’t socially explode.

Power over organizations on the other hand… if the person at the top enforcing things, and a couple of bad apples peppered through are all on board, then a lot of lying, misdirection, covering up, and simple “following orders” can make for some really morally appalling things.

That’s much less likely in an organization that is based on things like inviting feedback, transparency, and empowering others.

I think the question based around “evil” isn’t necessarily the most interesting question here.

I like your take on this topic that “evil” isn’t necessarily the most interesting question here." You triggered a whole cascade in my thoughts by suggesting that “good and evil” are relative concepts. While there are definitely margins of good and evil, I hold that there is an “absolute” level of morality that defines a hard line - that which is etched by virtue of our hard-wiring as a herd species, with obligate interdependency. But, I would be sadly incapable of defining where that lines is!

Kathleen, I know what you mean! All sorts of questions and answers that I don’t feel equipped to write down.

But I’m just reading a book (which you might enjoy, I’ve been eating it up!!) that makes the point that much more than we think happens in the conviction that people are wanting to be helpful. I read right-wing news as a hobby, for example, and they all are convinced they’re helpful to a bigger and good cause. The book makes the point, for example, that German soldiers in WW2 fought out of best intentions - yet not loyalty to fascism but out of loyalty to their comrades.
The book is Humankind: A Hopeful History: Bregman, Rutger.

The basic premise of sociocracy is antithetical to anti-social behavior. Is there any criminal group that functions with consent? That believe everyone deserved equal respect? Since the group would be transparent, planning evil on a very large scale would be impossible. And accountability? Oh, right! No way. Unless the group is willing to work toward being pro-social. It might be a good way to reform a group. Would the process of becoming more sociocratic enable the group to function even better as a pro-social group?

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