The tyranny of structurelessness

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The following page briefly defines what we mean by group 'structure', and discusses the importance of establishing a structure, and what can go wrong if this is not intentionally organized.


Structure is the way vision, strategy, tactics and principles etc. are presented and implemented by the organization or group. - The HUB
The HUB defines 5 key elements of good structure:
  1. Lines up with the group’s purpose and resources. 
  2. Moves the group forward without exhausting members.
  3. Everyone knows how decisions are made.
  4. New members are supported and able to navigate the group.
  5. Navigates conflict generatively to encourage healthy group culture.


This section is based on the text The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Joe Freeman

Quotations have been freely translated.

"Any group of people, whatever their nature, who come together for a time for some purpose, inevitably structure themselves in one way or another [...] the search for an unstructured group is as useful, and as misleading, as seeking 'objective' reporting” - Jo Freeman

In other words, the idea of ​​the structureless does not prevent the creation of informal structures, it only prevents formal structures.

Issues related to informal structures

Decision making

“The decision-making rules are only known to a few people and the awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. People who don't know the rules and aren't chosen to be introduced to them must be left confused or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is going on that they aren't quite aware of."

  • See the non-hierarcheal decision-making wiki page for more.
  • Elites
    • Small group have power over a larger group, often without the latter's knowledge or consent.
    • Individuals in this group may be known or they may not be.
    • The 'elite' often corresponds to people linked by friendships who form a communication network outside the channels of the group. They consult each other before decisions are made and align themselves on issues, which gives more power to the group they form.
    • It is rare that a group does not establish an informal communication network stemming from the bonds of friendship that are created there.
    • People in the elite are not accountable to the rest of the group since no formal power has been given to them. They can act responsibly, but it depends on their desire.
    • A group without a formal structure will be led by this group, it will have informal power.
    • When there is no spokesperson or decision-making body in a group, public figures speaking on the issue around which the group is organized are perceived as de facto spokespersons.
    • Representation to the public is assumed without prior selection of the group. The “star” and the movement find themselves in a situation with great potential for frustration.
    Political impotence
    For a group without a formal structure to "work", it must be:
    • task oriented
    • relatively small and homogeneous
    • there is a high degree of communication
    • there is little specialization

    This is impossible in a larger group.

    • The movement or group loses members who seek to organize themselves in a structured way
    • The desire for meaningful political activity is put into political organizations with less potential for social change.
    • On a larger scale, organized groups give direction according to their priorities. Groups without a formal structure will not be represented.

    Principles of democratic structure

    From The tyranny of structurelessness by Joe Freeman...

    • Delegation of power through a democratic process
    • Accountability of people with power to people who have delegated power to them
    • Distribution of authority among as many people as possible. Prevents monopoly of power and requires consultation with others before making decisions. Also allows the development of skills.
    • Rotation of tasks between individuals. Give people enough time to learn the roles so that they can be satisfied with the work done.
    • Allocation of tasks according to rational criteria (skill, interest and responsibility). People should have the opportunity to learn a new role if they so choose. Some sort of learning program helps.
    • Dissemination and information. Information gives power, access to information increases power. When a group disseminates ideas in a restricted way, the people who belong to it are forming an opinion without the entire group being able to participate.
    • Equal access to the resources that the group requires. Knowledge, access and information are resources.

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