Come Hell or High Water: A Handbook on Collective Process Gone Awry

Delfina Vannucci Richard Singer

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status Copy #1 (3041): in
genre Utopian Studies » Community
publisher AK Press
publish date March 1, 2010
popularity checked out 4 time(s)


  • By Zachary Robertson -

    It’s Sunday. Should I go to our house meeting or read a little more of this?

  • By Future Man -

    What more can I add? This book is an amazing little exploration of the pitfalls of collective group organizing and the things to look out for that can get in the way of our work. An indispensable aid to those of us trying to create groups where everyone’s voice can be heard and respected.

  • By Alexander Chadsey -

    An excellent resource for those who live or work in a cooperative setting. Suggests many alternatives to debauchery and battles-to-the-death in settling disputes. A short read, and definitely something anyone new to consensus-based decision making should read.

  • By Calhan Ring -

    The book purports to “clarify some of the problems that can come up in groups that strive for openness and equality” and is a quick and easy read that does just that.

    Vannucci and Singer highlight what is at stake:
    “… the most disillusioned activists whom we have encountered did not become disillusioned for the typically cited reasons of state oppression, loss of basic ideals, or an increase in “adult” responsibility. Mostly these activists got discouraged by the things that they saw and experienced within their own activist groups… These problems actually raise fundamental questions about whether egalitarian collectives can be sustainable…”

    As the authors raise issues and bad behavior that undermines the good work of collectives, the book can feel a bit like a chronicle of horrors with mostly negatively framed recommendations of things not to do. The book does have a small list of suggested practices in a final section called “Codifying the Process” which supplements the overarching theme of practices to avoid. I would love to see another edition of this book with best practices sprinkled throughout as remedies to the numerous bad practices it condemns.

    I recommend this book as an important cautionary read for folks who work in collectives, but with the warning it is weak on specific recommendations and solutions. For the most productive read of this book, read the last 10 pages first, then the first one hundred with notebook and pen in hand, noting ideas for addressing potential and existing challenges in your group.

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