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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #48:  The Co-operative,

Decentralized Society Advocate 

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
Contrast Worldview Themes #48 and #19 --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #48 and #20B --  these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #48 and #22B --  these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #48 and #43 --  these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

appropriate (or soft) technology--technology selected, designed and implemented with the special environ- mental, cultural, social and economic aspects of the community it is intended for in mind. It typically has little or no significant environmental impact and is well suited to an area since it makes use of what is relatively abundant--for example, labor in places where people need jobs. Typically it involves devices that are small, relatively simple, inexpensive, decentralized, and that can preserve meaningful experiences or work for people. In contrast high or hard technology typically has much greater environmental impact, tends to replace people with machines, and can involve more technological complexity, equipment capital outlay, etc. Example: Using lots of workers with hand tools to control unwanted brush and growth in a forest -- so that young trees can get more sun and grow better -- would be an appropriate technology solution; using one person flying over a forest in a helicopter spraying a chemical herbicide to kill unwanted growth would be a hard technology way of accomplishing the same thing.

authoritarianism and collectivism--are alike in that in both the individual gives up certain rights and aspirations and conforms to the beliefs, goals, and expectations of the larger whole (nation, political party, religious group, working group. etc.) that he or she is part of.  They typically differ though in the manner in which members submit to such authority: authoritarian institutions are undemocratic and affected individuals have no real choice, whereas many collectives operate with voluntary participation and leadership seeks consensus agreement of members.  

bioregion -- a region sharing common geography, similar biological communities, and other climate, cultural and environmental factors that make it stand out as an organization unit for planning purposes. Note that parts of a given bioregion can be in different countries and that a single large country can contain many different bioregions.

centralized vs. decentralized ways to govern, meet needs or provide services -- To draw this contrast, consider energy installations...Centralized energy installations are characterized by huge facilities for producing energy, require large capital investment, are owned by the government or large corporations, and depend on a complex distribution system to deliver energy to the point of end use. Examples include large 1000 megawatt electric power plants and big oil refineries. Contrast these with...Decentralized energy installations, characterized by small units for producing energy, owned by individuals, small businesses or communities, relatively little capital investment is required, and they are located where the demand for the energy is. Examples include rooftop solar collectors, and basement natural gas powered cogeneration units for producing electricity , space heat and hot water.

citizenship -- membership in a local, state, or national community that brings with it certain rights, privileges (voting, etc), and protection (as mandated by laws), and can involve meeting certain duties (pledging allegiance, paying taxes, etc).  Being a good citizen is commonly thought to involve working for the betterment of the community.

collective -- a typically democratic and egalitarian-minded  group of people, brought together by a common issue, interest, project or goal,  often after realizing that their political, social, or economic clout greatly increases after joining together.  Cooperatives represent a type of collective, one generally formed around some economic endeavor, with perceived economic benefit in mind.  

common good, the--can be defined in various ways depending on one's perspective. Some define it narrowly as that which is good for every member of the community; others broaden the community here to include all human beings. While libertarians argue it is a meaningless concept, utilitarians equate it with "the greatest good for the greatest  number of individuals."  

communitas--intense feelings of social solidarity, community spirit, and joyful togetherness. 

community supported agriculture--people in a community join together to support a local farm to the benefit of both.  Ideally, consumers get affordable, locally grown, fresh, high quality and ecologically acceptable food, whereas farmers use this strong producer--consumer relationship to minimize their financial risk and the amount of food they produce that is wasted.  Farmers especially benefit in this latter regard when the consumer group funds a whole year's farming budget.  In doing this the group assumes much of the risk but also increases its stakeholder role--giving it greater input into farming and distribution practices.   

community vs. society--the sociological distinction between two social groups, most notably made by Ferdinand Tönnies in his 1887 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft.  According to Tönnies, the former group is built around the personal, family, and neighborhood relationships and feelings of togetherness that one expects in a place where people have direct, face to face contact.  In contrast, the latter group is one of self interest motivated individuals held together by formal regulation and legal framework. There relationships between people are more impersonal, there is less cohesion and less dependence on each other.  Tönnies saw the contrast embodied in his book's title when he looked first at traditional European peasant villages, then at large, modern, industrialized cities.   

competition vs. co-operation--the former involves two or more rivals in a contest where typically only one wins, profits or comes out ahead, the latter involves a mutually beneficial association where people help each other.    

cooperatives principles -- These were formulated in the 1840s by a co-operative of weavers in Rochdale, Lancashire, England: 1) voluntary and open membership; 2) democratic member control; 3) members economic participation; 4) autonomy and independence; 5) provide education, training, and information; 6) cooperate and work with other cooperatives; 7) concern for the community.

cooperatives, types of--democratic, for profit co-operatives can generally be classed as worker or consumer co-ops. The former are worker owned, with workers investing when they start work; the latter are customer-owned businesses whose goal is to provide customers with low cost, high quality products and services. 

credit union--a member-owned co-operative association that accepts deposits from and loans money to its members.

democracy -- government by the people, typically controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual.  Democracies can be direct--where citizens' votes directly make decisions--or representative--where citizens elect individuals to politically lead and represent them in a legislature with those representatives casting votes on their behalf.  Direct democracy is the type practiced in Athens, Greece nearly 2500 years ago.  It is perhaps better suited for governing smaller institutions (communes, workplaces, communities, cities)--although ballot issues decided in recent California referendum elections provide an example of its large scale application. Use of referendums also illustrates that representative democracies sometimes allow the people to directly decide certain matters.  A democratic government where a constitution guarantees individual rights and civil liberties, along with providing a legal framework, is known as a liberal democracy.

economic democracy--while conceptions of it vary, this generally refers to a socioeconomic system that does some or all of the following: 1) transfers economic decision making from the (corporate elite) few to the majority through worker management / ownership of productive enterprises, 2) generally promotes democratic local / regional control over corporate state central planning, 3) charges central government with levying taxes that allow social control of investment, which is carried out locally / regionally, and 4) while retaining the market system, abolishes private ownership of productive resources, and wage labor. With respect to the latter, in worker run enterprises there are no labor costs: workers are compensated by dividing up what is left after other costs have been subtracted from sales  revenues.  With 3) and 4) in this conception, such economic democracy looks like a form of socialism.

ecovillage--defined by the Ecovillage Network of Canada as "self-identified communities committed to living in an ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually sustainable way." They are often composed of people who prefer living in a decentralized fashion: off centralized power grids, water and sewage systems.

human capital -- investment made in people, including improving their productive capabilities and health due to investments in job training, education or medical care.

Internet– the publicly accessible global information and communications network consisting of millions of smaller computer networks (maintained by households, commercial, educational, and government institutions, etc.) typically interconnected by cable and satellite or wireless links through standard communication (IP) protocols.  It includes the inter-linked, hypertext transfer protocol (http) based, web pages (viewed with a web browser) known as the worldwide web. 

  labor union -- an organization of workers whose purpose is to promote and advance its members’ interests with respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions. The power of organized labor in America peaked in the mid 1950s when 31% of the work force belonged to either a craft or industrial labor union. By 2007 it had declined in America such that only 12 % belonged to unions, although in Canada (30%) and some Western European countries the labor movement was relatively stronger.

local control of schools—the philosophy that the citizens of a community—including those whose taxes go to support the local school—should have the dominant say in what school policies are and what is taught.  Local citizens would exercise this control by electing school board members.  Typically, to one extent or another, authorities at higher levels of government (county, state, or national) may wrest such control away from the community where the school is located.

microcredit -- a scheme in which very small loans are made to very poor people who have no collateral. The loans are typically made to boost income generating economic endeavors, and surprisingly they have been repaid with a very low history of nonpayment.  The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh pioneered this type of lending in the mid 1970s.

mutualism -- an economic theory popular among some anarchists. Its chief belief is the idea that a market without government interference would not involve profit because firms would then compete for workers just as workers compete for firms. Without government protection of monopolies, its proponents claim, each worker would receive fair and full compensation -- since no deduction for profit to the employer would be removed.  

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

non-economic variables -- things important in the human world but difficult to quantify or put a monetary value on -- including environmental, educational, health, cultural, aesthetic, sociological, political factors

personal responsibility, accepting -- Before an individual can overcome some personal difficulty or solve a personal problem, he or she needs to acknowledge that the difficulty or problem exists, by saying something like, “This problem is mine and I must solve it”. In this context, taking personal responsibility means that you don’t ignore difficulties or problems, expect others to solve them for you, or shift the blame to others. In a family or social context, taking personal responsibility can mean voluntarily limiting your choices or restraining yourself for the good of the family, tribe, village, community or whatever. Richard Critchfield refers to this as “the freedom to choose self responsibility”.

religion, social function of -- according to Michael Shermer, in his book The Science of Good and Evil, religion is “a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, to discourage selfishness and greed, and to reveal the level of commitment to co-operate and reciprocate among members of the community.”

small is beautiful -- a philosophy popularized by E.F. Schumacher in the early 1970s, who himself was inspired by Gandhi. . It is a philosophy of enoughness, appreciating both human needs and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of Schumacher’s study of village based economics and economic thinking that he later termed “Buddhist Economics”. In this regard he faults conventional economic thinking for failing to consider the most appropriate scale for an activity, and blasts notions that “growth is good”, and that “bigger is better”. He similarly questions the appropriateness of using mass production in developing countries, promoting instead “production by the masses”. He was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using GNP to measure human well being, and pointed out that “the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well being with the minimum amount of consumption”..

subsidiarity--a principle that states the matters should be handled by the competent authority at the lowest level.  Some cite this to justify their belief that the family and value shaping institutions of the community (schools, churches, etc) ought to be strengthened.  Subsidiarity is compatible with philosophies that promote decentralized societies and local control. 

top down vs. bottom up–contrasting approaches to bringing change, solving problems, structuring interaction (compare centrally planned economies, market based ones).

trust--with respect to extending this to another person, it refers to relying on the integrity, character, and ability of that person.  The degree of that trust is in proportion to the belief and faith one has in the honesty, good intentions, and competence of the person to be trusted.

voluntary simplicity -- a simple, typically environmentally sound and ecologically grounded, non-consumerist lifestyle that people voluntarily choose, typically for ethical, environmental or spiritual reasons.


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