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  12. <title>The Tyranny of Stuctureless (archive) — David Larlet</title>
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  37. <article>
  38. <h1>The Tyranny of Stuctureless</h1>
  39. <h2><a href="https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm">Source originale du contenu</a></h2>
  40. <p><em>The
  41. earliest version of this article was given as a talk at a conference
  42. called by the Southern Female Rights Union, held in Beulah, Mississippi
  43. in May 1970. It was written up for <u>Notes from the Third Year</u> (1971),
  44. but the editors did not use it. It was then submitted to several movement
  45. publications, but only one asked permission to publish it; others did
  46. so without permission. The first official place of publication was
  47. in Vol. 2, No. 1 of <u>The Second Wave</u> (1972). This early version
  48. in movement publications was authored by Joreen. Different versions
  49. were published in the <u>Berkeley Journal of Sociology</u>, Vol. 17,
  50. 1972-73, pp. 151-165, and <u>Ms.</u> magazine, July 1973, pp. 76-78,
  51. 86-89, authored by Jo Freeman. This piece spread all over the world.
  52. Numerous people have edited, reprinted, cut, and translated “Tyranny” for
  53. magazines, books and web sites, usually without the permission or knowledge
  54. of the author. The version below is a blend of the three cited here.
  55. </em></p>
  56. <hr>
  57. <p>During
  58. the years in which the women’s liberation movement has been taking shape,
  59. a great emphasis has been placed on what are called leaderless, structureless
  60. groups as the main -- if not sole -- organizational form of the movement.
  61. The source of this idea was a natural reaction against the over-structured
  62. society in which most of us found ourselves, and the inevitable control
  63. this gave others over our lives, and the continual elitism of the Left
  64. and similar groups among those who were supposedly fighting this overstructuredness.
  65. </p>
  66. <p>The
  67. idea of “structurelessness,” however, has moved from a healthy
  68. counter to those tendencies to becoming a goddess in its own right. The
  69. idea is as little examined as the term is much used, but it has become
  70. an intrinsic and unquestioned part of women’s liberation ideology. For
  71. the early development of the movement this did not much matter. It early
  72. defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising,
  73. and the “structureless” rap group was an excellent means to
  74. this end. The looseness and informality of it encouraged participation
  75. in discussion, and its often supportive atmosphere elicited personal insight.
  76. If nothing more concrete than personal insight ever resulted from these
  77. groups, that did not much matter, because their purpose did not really
  78. extend beyond this.
  79. </p>
  80. <p>The
  81. basic problems didn’t appear until individual rap groups exhausted
  82. the virtues of consciousness-raising and decided they wanted to do
  83. something more specific. At this point they usually foundered because
  84. most groups were unwilling to change their structure when they changed
  85. their tasks. Women had thoroughly accepted the idea of “structurelessness” without
  86. realizing the limitations of its uses. People would try to use the “structureless” group
  87. and the informal conference for purposes for which they were unsuitable
  88. out of a blind belief that no other means could possibly be anything
  89. but oppressive.
  90. </p>
  91. <p>If
  92. the movement is to grow beyond these elementary stages of development,
  93. it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organization
  94. and structure. There is nothing inherently bad about either of these.
  95. They can be and often are misused, but to reject them out of hand because
  96. they are misused is to deny ourselves the necessary tools to further
  97. development. We need to understand why “structurelessness” does
  98. not work.</p>
  100. <p>Contrary
  101. to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless
  102. group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for
  103. any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in
  104. some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it
  105. may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the
  106. members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities,
  107. personalities, or intentions of the people involved. The very fact that
  108. we are individuals, with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds
  109. makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any
  110. basis whatsoever could we approximate structurelessness -- and that is
  111. not the nature of a human group.
  112. </p>
  113. <p>This
  114. means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive,
  115. as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free”
  116. social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire”
  117. group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the
  118. idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned
  119. hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because
  120. the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation
  121. of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire”
  122. philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing
  123. control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented
  124. the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of
  125. masking power, and within the women’s movement is usually most strongly
  126. advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious
  127. of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal,
  128. the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness
  129. of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know
  130. the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion,
  131. or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which
  132. they are not quite aware.
  133. </p>
  134. <p>For
  135. everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and
  136. to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not
  137. implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to
  138. everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized. This is
  139. not to say that formalization of a structure of a group will destroy
  140. the informal structure. It usually doesn’t. But it does hinder the
  141. informal structure from having predominant control and make available
  142. some means of attacking it if the people involved are not at least
  143. responsible to the needs of the group at large. “Structurelessness” is
  144. organizationally impossible. We cannot decide whether to have a structured
  145. or structureless group, only whether or not to have a formally structured
  146. one. Therefore the word will not be used any longer except to refer
  147. to the idea it represents. Unstructured will refer to those groups
  148. which have not been deliberately structured in a particular manner.
  149. Structured will refer to those which have. A Structured group always
  150. has formal structure, and may also have an informal, or covert, structure.
  151. It is this informal structure, particularly in Unstructured groups,
  152. which forms the basis for elites.</p>
  153. <h2>THE NATURE OF ELITISM</h2>
  154. <p>“Elitist”
  155. is probably the most abused word in the women’s liberation movement. It
  156. is used as frequently, and for the same reasons, as “pinko”
  157. was used in the fifties. It is rarely used correctly. Within the movement
  158. it commonly refers to individuals, though the personal characteristics
  159. and activities of those to whom it is directed may differ widely: An individual,
  160. as an individual can never be an elitist, because the only proper application
  161. of the term “elite” is to groups. Any individual, regardless
  162. of how well-known that person may be, can never be an elite.
  163. </p>
  164. <p>Correctly,
  165. an elite refers to a small group of people who have power over a larger
  166. group of which they are part, usually without direct responsibility to
  167. that larger group, and often without their knowledge or consent. A person
  168. becomes an elitist by being part of, or advocating the rule by, such a
  169. small group, whether or not that individual is well known or not known
  170. at all. Notoriety is not a definition of an elitist. The most insidious
  171. elites are usually run by people not known to the larger public at all.
  172. Intelligent elitists are usually smart enough not to allow themselves
  173. to become well known; when they become known, they are watched, and the
  174. mask over their power is no longer firmly lodged.
  175. </p>
  176. <p>Elites
  177. are not conspiracies. Very seldom does a small group of people get together
  178. and deliberately try to take over a larger group for its own ends. Elites
  179. are nothing more, and nothing less, than groups of friends who also happen
  180. to participate in the same political activities. They would probably maintain
  181. their friendship whether or not they were involved in political activities;
  182. they would probably be involved in political activities whether or not
  183. they maintained their friendships. It is the coincidence of these two
  184. phenomena which creates elites in any group and makes them so difficult
  185. to break.
  186. </p>
  187. <p>These
  188. friendship groups function as networks of communication outside any regular
  189. channels for such communication that may have been set up by a group.
  190. If no channels are set up, they function as the only networks of communication.
  191. Because people are friends, because they usually share the same values
  192. and orientations, because they talk to each other socially and consult
  193. with each other when common decisions have to be made, the people involved
  194. in these networks have more power in the group than those who don’t. And
  195. it is a rare group that does not establish some informal networks of communication
  196. through the friends that are made in it.
  197. </p>
  198. <p>Some
  199. groups, depending on their size, may have more than one such informal
  200. communications network. Networks may even overlap. When only one such
  201. network exists, it is the elite of an otherwise Unstructured group, whether
  202. the participants in it want to be elitists or not. If it is the only such
  203. network in a Structured group it may or may not be an elite depending
  204. on its composition and the nature of the formal Structure. If there are
  205. two or more such networks of friends, they may compete for power within
  206. the group, thus forming factions, or one may deliberately opt out of the
  207. competition, leaving the other as the elite. In a Structured group, two
  208. or more such friendship networks usually compete with each other for formal
  209. power. This is often the healthiest situation, as the other members are
  210. in a position to arbitrate between the two competitors for power and thus
  211. to make demands on those to whom they give their temporary allegiance.
  212. </p>
  213. <p>The
  214. inevitably elitist and exclusive nature of informal communication networks
  215. of friends is neither a new phenomenon characteristic of the women’s movement
  216. nor a phenomenon new to women. Such informal relationships have excluded
  217. women for centuries from participating in integrated groups of which they
  218. were a part. In any profession or organization these networks have created
  219. the “locker room” mentality and the “old school” ties
  220. which have effectively prevented women as a group (as well as some men
  221. individually) from having equal access to the sources of power or social
  222. reward. Much of the energy of past women’s movements has been directed
  223. to having the structures of decision-making and the selection processes
  224. formalized so that the exclusion of women could be confronted directly.
  225. As we well know, these efforts have not prevented the informal male-only
  226. networks from discriminating against women, but they have made it more
  227. difficult.
  228. </p>
  229. <p>Because
  230. elites are informal does not mean they are invisible. At any small group
  231. meeting anyone with a sharp eye and an acute ear can tell who is influencing
  232. whom. The members of a friendship group will relate more to each other
  233. than to other people. They listen more attentively, and interrupt less;
  234. they repeat each other’s points and give in amiably; they tend to ignore
  235. or grapple with the “outs” whose approval is not necessary for
  236. making a decision. But it is necessary for the “outs” to stay
  237. on good terms with the “ins.” Of course the lines are not as
  238. sharp as I have drawn them. They are nuances of interaction, not prewritten
  239. scripts. But they are discernible, and they do have their effect. Once
  240. one knows with whom it is important to check before a decision is made,
  241. and whose approval is the stamp of acceptance, one knows who is running
  242. things.
  243. </p>
  244. <p>Since
  245. movement groups have made no concrete decisions about who shall exercise
  246. power within them, many different criteria are used around the country.
  247. Most criteria are along the lines of traditional female characteristics.
  248. For instance, in the early days of the movement, marriage was usually
  249. a prerequisite for participation in the informal elite. As women have
  250. been traditionally taught, married women relate primarily to each other,
  251. and look upon single women as too threatening to have as close friends.
  252. In many cities, this criterion was further refined to include only those
  253. women married to New Left men. This standard had more than tradition behind
  254. it, however, because New Left men often had access to resources needed
  255. by the movement -- such as mailing lists, printing presses, contacts,
  256. and information -- and women were used to getting what they needed through
  257. men rather than independently. As the movement has charged through time,
  258. marriage has become a less universal criterion for effective participation,
  259. but all informal elites establish standards by which only women who possess
  260. certain material or personal characteristics may join. They frequently
  261. include: middle-class background (despite all the rhetoric about relating
  262. to the working class); being married; not being married but living with
  263. someone; being or pretending to be a lesbian; being between the ages of
  264. twenty and thirty; being college educated or at least having some college
  265. background; being “hip”; not being too “hip”; holding
  266. a certain political line or identification as a “radical”; having
  267. children or at least liking them; not having children; having certain
  268. “feminine” personality characteristics such as being “nice”;
  269. dressing right (whether in the traditional style or the antitraditional
  270. style); etc. There are also some characteristics which will almost always
  271. tag one as a “deviant” who should not be related to. They include:
  272. being too old; working full time, particularly if one is actively committed
  273. to a “career”; not being “nice”; and being avowedly
  274. single (i.e., neither actively heterosexual nor homosexual).
  275. </p>
  276. <p>Other
  277. criteria could be included, but they all have common themes. The characteristics
  278. prerequisite for participating in the informal elites of the movement,
  279. and thus for exercising power, concern one’s background, personality,
  280. or allocation of time. They do not include one’s competence, dedication
  281. to feminism, talents, or potential contribution to the movement. The former
  282. are the criteria one usually uses in determining one’s friends. The latter
  283. are what any movement or organization has to use if it is going to be
  284. politically effective.
  285. </p>
  286. <p>The
  287. criteria of participation may differ from group to group, but the means
  288. of becoming a member of the informal elite if one meets those criteria
  289. are pretty much the same. The only main difference depends on whether
  290. one is in a group from the beginning, or joins it after it has begun.
  291. If involved from the beginning it is important to have as many of one’s
  292. personal friends as possible also join. If no one knows anyone else very
  293. well, then one must deliberately form friendships with a select number
  294. and establish the informal interaction patterns crucial to the creation
  295. of an informal structure. Once the informal patterns are formed they act
  296. to maintain themselves, and one of the most successful tactics of maintenance
  297. is to continuously recruit new people who “fit in.” One joins
  298. such an elite much the same way one pledges a sorority. If perceived as
  299. a potential addition, one is “rushed” by the members of the
  300. informal structure and eventually either dropped or initiated. If the
  301. sorority is not politically aware enough to actively engage in this process
  302. itself it can be started by the outsider pretty much the same way one
  303. joins any private club. Find a sponsor, i.e., pick some member of the
  304. elite who appears to be well respected within it, and actively cultivate
  305. that person’s friendship. Eventually, she will most likely bring you into
  306. the inner circle.
  307. </p>
  308. <p>All
  309. of these procedures take time. So if one works full time or has a similar
  310. major commitment, it is usually impossible to join simply because there
  311. are not enough hours left to go to all the meetings and cultivate the
  312. personal relationship necessary to have a voice in the decision-making.
  313. That is why formal structures of decision making are a boon to the
  314. overworked person. Having an established process for decision-making
  315. ensures that everyone can participate in it to some extent.
  316. </p>
  317. <p>Although
  318. this dissection of the process of elite formation within small groups
  319. has been critical in perspective, it is not made in the belief that
  320. these informal structures are inevitably bad -- merely inevitable.
  321. All groups create informal structures as a result of interaction patterns
  322. among the members of the group. Such informal structures can do very
  323. useful things But only Unstructured groups are totally governed by
  324. them. When informal elites are combined with a myth of “structurelessness,” there
  325. can be no attempt to put limits on the use of power. It becomes capricious.
  326. </p>
  327. <p>This
  328. has two potentially negative consequences of which we should be aware.
  329. The first is that the informal structure of decision-making will be
  330. much like a sorority -- one in which people listen to others because
  331. they like them and not because they say significant things. As long
  332. as the movement does not do significant things this does not much matter.
  333. But if its development is not to be arrested at this preliminary stage,
  334. it will have to alter this trend. The second is that informal structures
  335. have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power
  336. was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is
  337. not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly
  338. influenced by the group. This does not necessarily make informal structures
  339. irresponsible. Those who are concerned with maintaining their influence
  340. will usually try to be responsible. The group simply cannot compel
  341. such responsibility; it is dependent on the interests of the elite.</p>
  342. <h2>THE “STAR” SYSTEM</h2>
  343. <p>The
  344. idea of “structurelessness” has created the “star”
  345. system. We live in a society which expects political groups to make decisions
  346. and to select people to articulate those decisions to the public at large.
  347. The press and the public do not know how to listen seriously to individual
  348. women as women; they want to know how the group feels. Only three techniques
  349. have ever been developed for establishing mass group opinion: the vote
  350. or referendum, the public opinion survey questionnaire, and the selection
  351. of group spokespeople at an appropriate meeting. The women’s liberation
  352. movement has used none of these to communicate with the public. Neither
  353. the movement as a whole nor most of the multitudinous groups within it
  354. have established a means of explaining their position on various issues.
  355. But the public is conditioned to look for spokespeople.
  356. </p>
  357. <p>While
  358. it has consciously not chosen spokespeople, the movement has thrown up
  359. many women who have caught the public eye for varying reasons. These women
  360. represent no particular group or established opinion; they know this and
  361. usually say so. But because there are no official spokespeople nor any
  362. decision-making body that the press can query when it wants to know the
  363. movement’s position on a subject, these women are perceived as the spokespeople.
  364. Thus, whether they want to or not, whether the movement likes it or not,
  365. women of public note are put in the role of spokespeople by default.
  366. </p>
  367. <p>This
  368. is one main source of the ire that is often felt toward the women who
  369. are labeled “stars.” Because they were not selected by the women
  370. in the movement to represent the movement’s views, they are resented when
  371. the press presumes that they speak for the movement. But as long as the
  372. movement does not select its own spokeswomen, such women will be placed
  373. in that role by the press and the public, regardless of their own desires.
  374. </p>
  375. <p>This
  376. has several negative consequences for both the movement and the women
  377. labeled “stars.” First, because the movement didn’t put them
  378. in the role of spokesperson, the movement cannot remove them. The press
  379. put them there and only the press can choose not to listen. The press
  380. will continue to look to “stars” as spokeswomen as long as it
  381. has no official alternatives to go to for authoritative statements from
  382. the movement. The movement has no control in the selection of its representatives
  383. to the public as long as it believes that it should have no representatives
  384. at all. Second, women put in this position often find themselves viciously
  385. attacked by their sisters. This achieves nothing for the movement and
  386. is painfully destructive to the individuals involved. Such attacks only
  387. result in either the woman leaving the movement entirely-often bitterly
  388. alienated -- or in her ceasing to feel responsible to her “sisters.”
  389. She may maintain some loyalty to the movement, vaguely defined, but she
  390. is no longer susceptible to pressures from other women in it. One cannot
  391. feel responsible to people who have been the source of such pain without
  392. being a masochist, and these women are usually too strong to bow to that
  393. kind of personal pressure. Thus the backlash to the “star” system
  394. in effect encourages the very kind of individualistic nonresponsibility
  395. that the movement condemns. By purging a sister as a “star,”
  396. the movement loses whatever control it may have had over the person who
  397. then becomes free to commit all of the individualistic sins of which she
  398. has been accused.</p>
  400. <p>Unstructured
  401. groups may be very effective in getting women to talk about their lives;
  402. they aren’t very good for getting things done. It is when people get tired
  403. of “just talking” and want to do something more that the groups
  404. flounder, unless they change the nature of their operation. Occasionally,
  405. the developed informal structure of the group coincides with an available
  406. need that the group can fill in such a way as to give the appearance that
  407. an Unstructured group “works.” That is, the group has fortuitously
  408. developed precisely the kind of structure best suited for engaging in
  409. a particular project.
  410. </p>
  411. <p>While working in this kind of group is a very heady experience, it is also rare
  412. and very hard to replicate. There are almost inevitably four conditions
  413. found in such a group:
  414. </p>
  415. <ol>
  416. <li><em> It is task oriented</em>. Its function is very narrow and very specific,
  417. like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task
  418. that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to
  419. be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people
  420. can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.
  421. </li>
  422. <li><em>It is relatively small and homogeneous</em>. Homogeneity is necessary
  423. to insure that participants have a “common language” for interaction.
  424. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising
  425. group where each can learn from the others’ experience, but too great
  426. a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they
  427. continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words
  428. and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other’s
  429. behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone
  430. knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be
  431. accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent
  432. straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.
  433. </li>
  434. <li><em>There is a high degree of communication</em>. Information must be passed
  435. on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured
  436. in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small
  437. and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the
  438. task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve
  439. everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This
  440. inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from
  441. some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15,
  442. but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which
  443. perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each
  444. other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can
  445. be passed around easily.
  446. </li>
  447. <li><em>There is a low degree of skill specialization</em>. Not everyone has
  448. to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by
  449. more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent,
  450. people become interchangeable parts.
  451. </li>
  452. </ol>
  453. <p>While
  454. these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not
  455. possible in large ones. Consequently, because the larger movement in most
  456. cities is as unstructured as individual rap groups, it is not too much
  457. more effective than the separate groups at specific tasks. The informal
  458. structure is rarely together enough or in touch enough with the people
  459. to be able to operate effectively. So the movement generates much motion
  460. and few results. Unfortunately, the consequences of all this motion are
  461. not as innocuous as the results’ and their victim is the movement itself.
  462. </p>
  463. <p>Some
  464. groups have formed themselves into local action projects if they do not
  465. involve many people and work on a small scale. But this form restricts
  466. movement activity to the local level; it cannot be done on the regional
  467. or national. Also, to function well the groups must usually pare themselves
  468. down to that informal group of friends who were running things in the
  469. first place. This excludes many women from participating. As long as the
  470. only way women can participate in the movement is through membership in
  471. a small group, the nongregarious are at a distinct disadvantage. As long
  472. as friendship groups are the main means of organizational activity, elitism
  473. becomes institutionalized.
  474. </p>
  475. <p>For
  476. those groups which cannot find a local project to which to devote themselves,
  477. the mere act of staying together becomes the reason for their staying
  478. together. When a group has no specific task (and consciousness raising
  479. is a task), the people in it turn their energies to controlling others
  480. in the group. This is not done so much out of a malicious desire to manipulate
  481. others (though sometimes it is) as out of a lack of anything better to
  482. do with their talents. Able people with time on their hands and a need
  483. to justify their coming together put their efforts into personal control,
  484. and spend their time criticizing the personalities of the other members
  485. in the group. Infighting and personal power games rule the day. When a
  486. group is involved in a task, people learn to get along with others as
  487. they are and to subsume personal dislikes for the sake of the larger goal.
  488. There are limits placed on the compulsion to remold every person in our
  489. image of what they should be.
  490. </p>
  491. <p>The
  492. end of consciousness-raising leaves people with no place to go, and
  493. the lack of structure leaves them with no way of getting there. The
  494. women the movement either turn in on themselves and their sisters or
  495. seek other alternatives of action. There are few that are available.
  496. Some women just “do their own thing.” This can lead to a
  497. great deal of individual creativity, much of which is useful for the
  498. movement, but it is not a viable alternative for most women and certainly
  499. does not foster a spirit of cooperative group effort. Other women drift
  500. out of the movement entirely because they don’t want to develop an
  501. individual project and they have found no way of discovering, joining,
  502. or starting group projects that interest them.
  503. </p>
  504. <p>Many
  505. turn to other political organizations to give them the kind of structured,
  506. effective activity that they have not been able to find in the women’s
  507. movement. Those political organizations which see women’s liberation
  508. as only one of many issues to which women should devote their time
  509. thus find the movement a vast recruiting ground for new members. There
  510. is no need for such organizations to “infiltrate” (though
  511. this is not precluded). The desire for meaningful political activity
  512. generated in women by their becoming part of the women’s liberation
  513. movement is sufficient to make them eager to join other organizations
  514. when the movement itself provides no outlets for their new ideas and
  515. energies. Those women who join other political organizations while
  516. remaining within the women’s liberation movement, or who join women’s
  517. liberation while remaining in other political organizations, in turn
  518. become the framework for new informal structures. These friendship
  519. networks are based upon their common nonfeminist politics rather than
  520. the characteristics discussed earlier, but operate in much the same
  521. way. Because these women share common values, ideas, and political
  522. orientations, they too become informal, unplanned, unselected, unresponsible
  523. elites -- whether they intend to be so or not.
  524. </p>
  525. <p>These
  526. new informal elites are often perceived as threats by the old informal
  527. elites previously developed within different movement groups. This
  528. is a correct perception. Such politically oriented networks are rarely
  529. willing to be merely “sororities” as many of the old ones
  530. were, and want to proselytize their political as well as their feminist
  531. ideas. This is only natural, but its implications for women’s liberation
  532. have never been adequately discussed. The old elites are rarely willing
  533. to bring such differences of opinion out into the open because it would
  534. involve exposing the nature of the informal structure of the group.
  535. </p>
  536. <p>Many
  537. of these informal elites have been hiding under the banner of “anti-elitism” and “structurelessness.” To
  538. effectively counter the competition from another informal structure,
  539. they would have to become “public,” and this possibility
  540. is fraught with many dangerous implications. Thus, to maintain its
  541. own power, it is easier to rationalize the exclusion of the members
  542. of the other informal structure by such means as “red-baiting,” “reformist-baiting,” “lesbian-baiting,” or “straight-baiting.” The
  543. only other alternative is to formally structure the group in such a
  544. way that the original power structure is institutionalized. This is
  545. not always possible. If the informal elites have been well structured
  546. and have exercised a fair amount of power in the past, such a task
  547. is feasible. These groups have a history of being somewhat politically
  548. effective in the past, as the tightness of the informal structure has
  549. proven an adequate substitute for a formal structure. Becoming Structured
  550. does not alter their operation much, though the institutionalization
  551. of the power structure does open it to formal challenge. It is those
  552. groups which are in greatest need of structure that are often least
  553. capable of creating it. Their informal structures have not been too
  554. well formed and adherence to the ideology of “structurelessness” makes
  555. them reluctant to change tactics. The more Unstructured a group is,
  556. the more lacking it is in informal structures, and the more it adheres
  557. to an ideology of “structurelessness,” the more vulnerable
  558. it is to being taken over by a group of political comrades.
  559. </p>
  560. <p>Since
  561. the movement at large is just as Unstructured as most of its constituent
  562. groups, it is similarly susceptible to indirect influence. But the
  563. phenomenon manifests itself differently. On a local level most groups
  564. can operate autonomously; but the only groups that can organize a national
  565. activity are nationally organized groups. Thus, it is often the Structured
  566. feminist organizations that provide national direction for feminist
  567. activities, and this direction is determined by the priorities of those
  568. organizations. Such groups as NOW, WEAL, and some leftist women’s caucuses
  569. are simply the only organizations capable of mounting a national campaign.
  570. The multitude of Unstructured women’s liberation groups can choose
  571. to support or not support the national campaigns, but are incapable
  572. of mounting their own. Thus their members become the troops under the
  573. leadership of the Structured organizations. The avowedly Unstructured
  574. groups have no way of drawing upon the movement’s vast resources to
  575. support its priorities. It doesn’t even have a way of deciding what
  576. they are.
  577. </p>
  578. <p>The
  579. more unstructured a movement it, the less control it has over the directions
  580. in which it develops and the political actions in which it engages.
  581. This does not mean that its ideas do not spread. Given a certain amount
  582. of interest by the media and the appropriateness of social conditions,
  583. the ideas will still be diffused widely. But diffusion of ideas does
  584. not mean they are implemented; it only means they are talked about.
  585. Insofar as they can be applied individually they may be acted on; insofar
  586. as they require coordinated political power to be implemented, they
  587. will not be.
  588. </p>
  589. <p>As
  590. long as the women’s liberation movement stays dedicated to a form of
  591. organization which stresses small, inactive discussion groups among
  592. friends, the worst problems of Unstructuredness will not be felt. But
  593. this style of organization has its limits; it is politically inefficacious,
  594. exclusive, and discriminatory against those women who are not or cannot
  595. be tied into the friendship networks. Those who do not fit into what
  596. already exists because of class, race, occupation, education, parental
  597. or marital status, personality, etc., will inevitably be discouraged
  598. from trying to participate. Those who do fit in will develop vested
  599. interests in maintaining things as they are.
  600. </p>
  601. <p>The
  602. informal groups’ vested interests will be sustained by the informal
  603. structures which exist, and the movement will have no way of determining
  604. who shall exercise power within it. If the movement continues deliberately
  605. to not select who shall exercise power, it does not thereby abolish
  606. power. All it does is abdicate the right to demand that those who do
  607. exercise power and influence be responsible for it. If the movement
  608. continues to keep power as diffuse as possible because it knows it
  609. cannot demand responsibility from those who have it, it does prevent
  610. any group or person from totally dominating. But it simultaneously
  611. insures that the movement is as ineffective as possible. Some middle
  612. ground between domination and ineffectiveness can and must be found.
  613. </p>
  614. <p>These
  615. problems are coming to a head at this time because the nature of the
  616. movement is necessarily changing. Consciousness-raising as the main
  617. function of the women’s liberation movement is becoming obsolete. Due
  618. to the intense press publicity of the last two years and the numerous
  619. overground books and articles now being circulated, women’s liberation
  620. has become a household word. Its issues are discussed and informal
  621. rap groups are formed by people who have no explicit connection with
  622. any movement group. The movement must go on to other tasks. It now
  623. needs to establish its priorities, articulate its goals, and pursue
  624. its objectives in a coordinated fashion. To do this it must get organized
  625. -- locally, regionally, and nationally.</p>
  627. <p>Once
  628. the movement no longer clings tenaciously to the ideology of “structurelessness,”
  629. it is free to develop those forms of organization best suited to its healthy
  630. functioning. This does not mean that we should go to the other extreme
  631. and blindly imitate the traditional forms of organization. But neither
  632. should we blindly reject them all. Some of the traditional techniques
  633. will prove useful, albeit not perfect; some will give us insights into
  634. what we should and should not do to obtain certain ends with minimal costs
  635. to the individuals in the movement. Mostly, we will have to experiment
  636. with different kinds of structuring and develop a variety of techniques
  637. to use for different situations. The Lot System is one such idea which
  638. has emerged from the movement. It is not applicable to all situations,
  639. but is useful in some. Other ideas for structuring are needed. But before
  640. we can proceed to experiment intelligently, we must accept the idea that
  641. there is nothing inherently bad about structure itself -- only its excess
  642. use.
  643. </p>
  644. </article>
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