Title: The Tao of Democracy
Author: Tom Atlee
Atlee, Tom (2003) with Rosa Zubizarreta. The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All. Cranston, RI: Writers’ Collective
Date Posted: April 5, 2013
Barbara L. Valocore reviews the book in “The Bridging Tree” (Spring 2004)
Tom Atlee’s recent book, The Tao of Democracy, is a coherent and compelling look at the undeniable fact of humanity’s interdependence, diversity and innate desire for connection, mutual respect and inclusive governance. He has made a deep and thorough study of what wise self governance can really look like, how any group of citizens can create a new and more effective democratic process and how humanity can build a system based on “what intelligence would look like if we took wholeness, interconnectedness, and co-creativity seriously”.
Atlee’s favorite definition of co-intelligence is, “the ability to generate or evoke creative responses and initiatives that integrate the diverse gifts of all for the benefit of all.” This might sound complicated, until one examines his thesis which rests on the idea that diversity within a group generates a tension which can be harnessed into a creative force to be used to everyone’s advantage. He describes many types of tools and techniques in practice for many years, such as citizen juries, stakeholder dialogues, dynamic facilitation, citizen deliberative councils, open space technology, listening and study circles and more.
He encourages us to harness our collective wisdom to solve the social and environmental problems of our own making and argues that there are multiple ways of knowing that translate into collective rather than collected intelligence. The reader soon becomes painfully aware that the current system of democracy in the United States excludes many voices and polarizes the issues thereby disenfranchising many valuable opinions.
Utilizing a comprehensive bibliography, Atlee draws from years of global community experimentation and process-oriented approaches, and includes steps highlighting how we can move from “power politics” to co-operative and holistic politics.
Readable and accessible, The Tao of Democracy is full of meaningful and informative stories and anecdotes demonstrating the magic of this newer approach to public debate and dialogue. Organized as a research tool, it is rich with helpful and relevant websites and resources for expanding our knowledge and understanding of this issue. Whatever your political affiliation, the book demonstrates how a deeper interconnectedness can transform our polarized political systems into more inclusive and participatory approaches.