The ICAS Hierarchy

In my last post i mentioned that Steve Best cofounded the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, ICAS.

ICAS has 10 guiding prínciples, number 5 of which tells readers, in part, that it, “Rejects apolitical, conservative, and liberal positions in order to advance an anti-capitalist and, more generally, a radical anti-hierarchical politics.”

According to this, not only are their politics “anti-hierarchical,” but radically anti-hierarchical.

Just how radical?

ICAS is run by an “Executive Board of Directors.”

An executive board—of directors—immediately suggests some level of hierarchy.

The ICAS Executive Board of Directors Charge explains that:

The Executive Board of Directors… are dedicated to reviewing that all the programs, projects, regions, and publications are being managed by the coordinator/director/editor/chair accordingly and the development or elimination of them via a vote either at the Monthly Meeting or via listserve/mass message.

That is, the Executive Board decides what happens and where. The rank and file members don’t get automatic input into ICAS activities.

However maybe they aren’t concerned as long as things progress. Maybe they want the directors to look after things.

Even so, activities are managed— looked after. Some people oversee things, while other do them or go along with them.

While calling a leadership group a Board of Directors may sound like something out of a capitalist nightmare, the Executive Board of Directors and Board of Directors seem to be one and the same thing.

That is, they’re not two separate groups, the Executive within the Board of Directors.

In any case, the Executive may just be for organisational efficiency.

Do all members have equal ‘standing’?

Maybe not. The Directors Charge tells us that:

The Board of Executive Directors –both individually and collectively–are the only ones that can officially represent the whole organization and can determine what individuals, coalitions, and groups we collaborate with or do not. All ICAS programs, projects, regions, and/or publications who have been appointed by the ICAS Executive Directors can speak on behalf of themselves.

In other words, only Board members—given the Executive and the Board are one and the same—officially address what the organisation’s about.

What’s more, it’s only the Board that decides on who to work with.

How do they reach their decisions? The Directors Charge tells us:

All ICAS board, committees, programs, projects, regions, and/or publications conduct decisions through a closed consensus-decision-making.

The Charge further implies that only people appointed by the ICAS executive can speak for the “programs,  projects, regions, and/or publication” they oversee.

Consensus means people reach a decision, even though some of them might not be on board with it, to keep things moving forward.

Disagreements are ‘smoothed out.’ This implies that when a minority view exists, the ‘hierarchy’ of the majority may hold more weight.

Not only does the board make decisions this way, but so do all the groups acting on their behalf.

In a group where, for instance, 4 people don’t like the other two, decisions may tend towards the majority.

Presumably the Directors Charge is a document all founders, or all directors at the time it was created, agreed to. Or at least agreed by consensus.

Either way, the Charge sets out rules for members, and doesn’t involve anything unusual to social anarchism in the way it was adopted.

The anti-hierarchical aspect of ICAS is that within its Board, everyone’s vote carries equal weight: there’s no chair, president or other positions that have a final say or carry more votes than the rest of the Board.

But since the Board makes rules for all members, manages activity on behalf of them, authority appears to devolve at least one level down, and the majority potentially has more influence than the minority, how is this anti-hierarchical? How is it radically anti-hierarchical?

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