I invite you to join me for an hour or so in a major project – or at least to get a peek at it months before it is released.
My new book – Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics – has gone through two rounds of editorial review. It is scheduled for publication in early August 2012. The publisher – North Atlantic Books, whose books are sold and distributed by Random House – has agreed to post two chapters on the web for pre-publication public review and comment. (This is not something that is ordinarily done, and they are, to their credit, going out on a limb to do this.) In addition to crowd-sourcing editorial perspectives, we want to seed the book’s ideas into the public conversation (in a very hot election year!) and get an early sense of public reaction.
That’s where you come in – at least if you’d like to. (And I’d love it if you did.)The two chapters are being posted at Reality Sandwich, “a web magazine for this time of intense transformation”. RS and its social network Evolver.net are collaborating with North Atlantic Books on the “Evolver Editions” series that my book is part of. One of my all-time favorite books, Charles Eisenstein’s recently published and amazing Sacred Economics, is also an Evolver Edition book.
The Evolver Editions folks chose two chapters that are particularly meaty and central to the book’s vision. The first – Chapter 6: Citizen Deliberative Councils and Their Many Uses – has just this morning been posted at
http://www.realitysandwich.com/empowering_public_wisdom. It will be available online for just one week, after which it will be replaced by the other chapter – Chapter 11: Empowered Public Wisdom Arising from the Grassroots – which will then be up for a week. Then, as 2012 begins, they and I will disappear into the final editorial process.
I invite you to read Chapter 6 and respond (if you wish) at the link above. If you want to comment, I encourage you to comment on the site above, where others can benefit from what you say, rather than just in an email to me. The chapter is available to anyone, but to comment you need to register with a username and email address. A password will then be emailed to you and you can log in and participate. I expect to be joining in the commentary, exploring this new vision with readers.The vision in this book has been ten years in the making. Considering the speed with which things are getting better and better and worse and worse, it is time to get this vision out into the whirlwind of change, where it can evolve and become manifest in many diverse ways among thousands and millions of other people. Your help in that is greatly appreciated. Blessings on the Journey we are all on together. Coheartedly,
Tom PS: Below is a quick summary of the chapters and the book, that I wrote to orient people reading just these two chapters out of the context of the whole book. This text also appears at the beginning of http://www.realitysandwich.com/empowering_public_wisdom so if you read it here, you can skip it on that page. ========= Our existing democratic-republican political system is clearly unable to deal with twenty-first-century challenges. We need more wisdom in our public policies, our public budgets, and our public conversations — and we need it soon. This book, Empowering Public Wisdom, suggests that it is both vital and possible to generate authentic collective wisdom through the conversations of ordinary citizens. “Public wisdom” results when the public — as a whole or in randomly selected “mini-publics” — engages in learning about, reflecting on, and discussing public affairs in ways that take into account what needs to be taken into account to decide what will produce long term, inclusive benefits. The chapters being posted on Reality Sandwich describe that kind of randomly selected mini-public — the various forms of temporary, well-informed “citizen deliberative councils.” They tell us about the hundreds of these councils that have been held around the world and how they have been used. They tell us about new forms of councils that could be developed and new ways they could be used — including organizing them at grassroots levels and through using the Internet. These councils provide a way to readily and affordably generate a legitimate, authentic, coherent, and wise voice of “we, the people” — a voice for “the general welfare” that is not currently present in our political discourse. It moves us beyond partisanship to a place of collective responsibility for our shared destiny. It reclaims the idea of “we, the people” as a coherent political force that integrates the diversity of the whole citizenry rather than a catchphrase used by one more special-interest group that attempts to speak for “the people” but doesn’t really embrace our full range of perspectives and needs. Other chapters in the book discuss (a) the role of power–especially how to balance power in a democracy and move from power-over to power-with; (b) the need to rein in corporate and financial domination of elections and government; (c) the strengths and limitations of both representative and direct democracy; (d) the polarization of our current political life and strategies to creatively move beyond it without dishonorable compromises and deals; (e) dozens of high quality conversational processes for mass public participation; and (f) how the power of public wisdom might actually be institutionalized in our government. This is a radically new way to think about democracy. It embraces diversity, engages participation, and addresses conflicts and ignorance in profoundly different ways than we are used to hearing in bars, on talk shows, in public hearings, and within the halls of government. This is not a kind of direct democracy, where everyone votes on everything. Its bottom line is not just “participation” or “winning” but wisdom. Empowering Public Wisdom offers practical approaches for achieving exactly that.