Review: The Porto Alegre Alternative–Direct Democracy in Action

5 Star, Country/Regional, Culture, DVD - Light, Democracy

Puerto AllegreImportant Book with Deep Insights, May 2, 2008

Iain Bruce

I read this book along with Design and Landscape for People: New Approaches to Renewal and A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World and in an odd sort of way they hang together.

I am stunned that it has not been reviewed by anyone else. This is a first class edited work, easy to understand, with very important lessons.

Here’s what I got out of this book:

+ Progressives facing ambiguity have lost sight of the objectives

+ Participatory budgeting is completely different from consultative budgeting, and should eventually be joined by participatory planning.

+ Progressives are not likely to succeed any time soon (UNLESS we can mount a mass movement with teeth–Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. We are all trapped in a strait-jacket of existing legal, constitutional and fiscal frameworks. I agree. Both Jean-Francouis Nouble and Jim Rough speak to the pyramidal organization (top down command and control) and its struggle to avoid being displaced by the circle organization. See their work in Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace which is also free online as a PDF of the whole book in or individual chapters as documents easy bound together for more selective study.

+ The bottom line on this book is that the Brazilian state chose to ignore the lessons of Porto Alegre, and chose to neglect its population while agreeing to externally imposed conditions that have ultimately made Brazil weaker than stronger. I cannot judge–that’s the message I got.

+ The World Social Forum keeps coming up as I scan the horizon for early warning.

+ Local governments are going to become at least as important as national governments as they strive to deal with very large scale challenges characteristic of urban areas with large concentrations of both the poor and the young.

The book ends on a note in favor of socialism which leaves me uncomfortable. I believe that moral capitalism, combined with honest participatory government, strikes a better balance. Corruption, though, is the killer.

If you are interested in this area, I recommend this book as a very high value reading, and one that could merit several returns.

Other books I favor:
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents)
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom