Unmask Power: beyond the tyranny of structurelessness

3 of 4 Tips for Transformative Leaders

Denying structure in intentional communities is a common reaction against an overly structured society that can place control of our lives in the hands of others.

Sometimes, however, a laissez-faire ideal for group structure can become a smoke screen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. Thus, “structurelessness” becomes a way of masking power. In these cases, the rules of how decisions are made are known to only a few, and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules.

Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no structureless group. Any group of people coming together under any conditions will ultimately structure itself. The structure may be flexible, evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power, and resources among the members, or vary over time. Regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the different people involved, structure will be formed. The fact that we are individuals with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds who interact socially makes this inevitable.

For everyone to have the opportunity to be actively involved in a group, the structure must be explicit and formalized. Decision-making must be open and available to everyone. Once a group gives up the notion of structure-lessness as a possibility, it is free to develop forms of organization best suited to healthy function as determined by the members. This does not mean blindly imitating traditional forms of organization or blindly rejecting them either. It is important to experiment with different styles of structures – both traditional and contemporary.


This essay has become a classic, circulating within civil society groups for years. We do not have Joreen's full name nor any information on her background
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