A Society without a Leader?

A Society without a Leader?

Strong leaders in established political structures seem to be the obvious, and indeed the only choice for managing society. Leaders are accountable and tasked solely with looking after their community.
However, this is not the case everywhere. A self-proclaimed, independent micro- community in a small Copenhagen neighbourhood has shown that a successful society doesn’t need to rely on the decisions of a few elected individuals. In a time when the qualities and roles of our leaders and public figures are under increasing scrutiny, it is worth considering how a society can operate under an entirely different system; with an absence of leadership.

Located on a small island close to centre of the city, the neighbourhood of Christiana is a unique place. It claims to be independent from the Danish government but does not go as far as proclaiming itself a country. There are no official laws but only ‘guidelines’ of how to behave within the community as the citizens insist on remaining lawless. Christiana’s income comes from donors, members who work outside of the neighbourhood in the city and tourists. The community appears to be full of paradoxes, always fighting a trade-off between staying true to their principles of self-determination and freedom and survival. For example, the introduction of specific rules on drugs, solved problems with drug gangs in the area but came at the cost of curbing the citizens’ freedoms.

Christiana is often described as an anarchist state, and to a large extent it is. It is worth clarifying what this means. Anarchy is most often associated with chaos and disorder but in this case, this is a serious misconception. In political thought, anarchism relates to an absence of hierarchy. Christiana is indeed such a place, where in all spheres of social life, especially governance, every member is regarded as equal. It also not disorderly or chaotic. Knowing that order in Christiana depends on the trust of complete strangers, it is at first a slightly daunting place to enter. However, it becomes apparent very quickly that the residents are actually very open and honest. Perhaps such an experience says more about the society that we live in. This contrast with Christiana seems to indicate that our hierarchal society has a deep-rooted mistrust amongst its members, stemming from a constant drive to compete. So, although our system generates economic wealth, it reduces the value of human interaction.

Therefore, while all of Christiana’s citizens choose a selfless, uncompetitive life, larger Western societies must trust their leaders to do the same in order to preserve the basic competitive essence of modern capitalism.

Despite not being particularly prosperous, Christiana nevertheless functions as a society and remains vibrant and successful. The citizens of Christiana have learnt to deal with problems as a group rather than individually. In the words of one citizen ‘all of our problems are shared.’ This philosophy is key to understanding how Christiana survives without a leader or a government. It is a community built on very personal relationships and there is little separation between private and public life. This means that members make their individual decisions always considering the effects of those around them which suggests that finding mutually beneficial solutions as a society is much easier. Thus, no leader or government is required to balance competing desires of citizens.

Essentially, the basis of the community is a completely selfless approach from each citizen. This is a stark contrast to the Smithian theory of self-interest which seems to have become a social norm in most of Western society. Making this comparison, it could be argued that leadership and government is required to keep in check the multitude of competing individual desires and stop them from destroying the structures of society. On the other hand, in Christiana, founded on selfless motivations, the authority of leadership is not needed.

How does this affect the roles of leaders today? Considering the example of Christiana, it appears that the function of a leader is to keep society together; to stop it destroying itself through irreconcilable selfish motivations. Members of societies give up their freedoms and place control in the hands of their leaders to maintain their own integrity. For many this is an acceptable arrangement. Problems only arise when leaders abuse these powers and begin to serve their own ambitions, be it political or economic.

To avoid this, the function of a leader should be viewed strictly as a public service rather than a career pinnacle. This is true for leaders everywhere, not only governments.

Therefore, while all of Christiana’s citizens choose a selfless, uncompetitive life, larger Western societies must trust their leaders to do the same in order to preserve the basic competitive essence of modern capitalism.

BY: Marcin Scicinski

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: