Voting is neither necessary nor sufficient for meaningful engagement in governance.
To crystalize the idea as a challenge, what would it look like to build an engaging, meaningful, flat, collectively run DAO that doesn’t implement voting anywhere? Is that an oxymoron? Is it possible anyway?
Core Research Question
A lot of interest in DAOs is that they give everyone a ownership and a vote, and that makes them inherently participatory. The biggest lesson I hear from people who have gotten their hands dirty in DAO organization is that DAOs with these affordances are just as vulnerable to authority and politics, while also being vulnerable to mob rule and lack of engagement. It all comes out of an assumption that
democracy iff voting. I think that’s flawed. There is so much to engagement and participation that has nothing to do with voting, and there is so much about voting that is meaningless to people. it is often participation in deliberation that gives people sense of ownership. That participation is time costly, but it may be precisely the time sunk into deliberation that makes it change people. Put another way, it may be that there are no mechanistic shortcuts to the feeling of participation and ownership. Mechanisms for participation and ownership can create room for these feelings, but are not enough alone.
Political scientists in the deliberative democracy community are the ones who hit these themes strongest, but they also tend to be the most averse to mechanism, rational choice, quantitative research, and technology. The best recent deviation from this may be
Hélène Landemore’s Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the Twenty-First Century
though it’s ultimately too qualitative and ideological for my taste: it’s more beacon than argument, but will give a sense of what the most theoretically driven political scientists actually think about what meaningful engagement in self-governing systems really looks like, and really requires.