Co-intelligence is the capacity to live well WITH each other and life, creatively using diversity and uniqueness,
consciously evolving together in partnership with nature, and consciously transforming culture.
Co-intelligence is intrinsic in all living systems and can always be improved.
Use it for organizational development, better family relations, community renewal, and
creating a more just, democratic and sustainable society.

The Co-Intelligence Institute's

Co-Intelligence, Democracy and Holistic Politics

 ** The CIPolitics Home Page **

PROJECTS: New Democracy Projects especially
The Innovations in Democracy and Beyond Project
-- featuring our companion site

Featured Article

A Call to Move Beyond Public Opinion to Public Judgment

An excellent summary of the evolving vision of co-intelligent politics.
For other highlights see Articles about Politics and Democracy and Articles about Activism

Responding to the 9/11/2001 attack crisis

INDEX of Sections of the Co-Intelligent Politics Website


Co-Intelligence in Politics, Social Change, Community and Cultural Evolution

Holistic Approaches to Politics and Social Change

Other parts of this site relevant to co-intelligent politics

(all articles are by Tom Atlee unless otherwise specified)


This section contains my favorite articles about democracy, which were very influential in shaping my co-intelligence political theories.

Perspectives on Democracy [9K] suggests three ways of viewing democracy - the power perspective (represented by Democracy: A Social Power Analysis and Ralph Nader), the participatory perspective (represented by Living Democracy) and the intelligence perspective (represented by articles in the "Co-Intelligence in Politics" section of this page). These three essential perspectives give us a powerful 3D view of democracy.

Living Democracy [29K] Frances Moore Lappé and Paul Martin Du Bois' brilliant new vision of democracy -- as it is being practiced in communities around the United States. This article features their reconceptualization of power and self interest; their innovative description of "the arts of democracy"; and, on a separate page, their insightful chart Alternate Conceptions of Democracy.

Democracy: A Social Power Analysis: [42K] John Atlee describes the different forms of social power, the laws by which they operate, and how to design a democracy using these laws. This article, written by my father, provided a breakthrough in my own understanding of the nature of power, freedom, democracy and the nature of our democratic institutions.

**The Challenge of Technology in a Democracy provides a series of articles about how democracy can sustain itself when most of the challenges it faces are too technical for the citizens (or even their representatives) to understand. It also offers some resources for teledemocracy (the use of telecommunications technology to enhance democracy).

The Concord Principles [15K] Ralph Nader's blueprint for bold new democratic institutions through which citizens would control what they own (airwaves, public lands, pension funds, etc.); would operate powerful watchdog groups to keep corporations in line; and would make the electoral process work for them -- up to and including voiding elections by voting for "none of the above." The Concord Principles were a foundation of Nader's 1992 presidential candidacy.

Participatory Democracy: Three Paradigms - Vera Bradova describes the pros and cons of representative democracy, direct democracy and democracy as self-government, leading to a vision of their ultimate integration into a fuller democratic system. This long, well-footnoted article was way ahead of its time when first published in 1993. Includes an extensive bibliography. [still being scanned and edited]

Principles of Public Participation - Lists of guidelines from The International Association for Public Participation, The Community Development Society and the Co-Intelligence Institute.

American Indians: The original democrats [8K] quotes from Jack Weatherford's research to show how the Native American societies were the utopian model guiding Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine, as well as the source (through Benjamin Franklin) of federalism, constitutional removal of leaders, taking turns speaking, and caucuses.

Deliberative Democracy - This rapidly spreading concept comes closest to the co-intelligence vision of democracy, and is already well developed in the world. For the rationale behind it, see A Call to Move Beyond Public Opinion to Public Judgment. For what's going on in the world in this field, see An overview of the emerging deliberative democracy movement and Fascinating references on deliberative democracy


Co-Intelligence in Politics, Social Change, Community and Cultural Evolution


A compact vision of co-intelligence [26K] - This essay offers an overview of co-intelligence, simplified into two parts: collective intelligence and collaborative intelligence. It shows how integrating these two produces a new vision of cultural transformation. Even this introductory material, well applied, could have a profound impact on our culture.

Democracy and the Evolution of Societal Intelligence - A relatively quick look at the evolution of society's intelligence from strong leaders through democracy and beyond.

A Co-intelligent Social Change Agenda [78K] - This long essay describes many things that could be done to build a co-intelligent society, and the holistic logic underlying them all. (I often use its section Some Notes on Economics and Co-Intelligence [15K] as a separate article.) Building a Culture of Dialogue (among other things) [26K] is a shorter article based largely on "A Co-Intelligent Social Change Agenda" -- although each of these articles contains much unique material.

Deep Democracy and Community Wisdom [9K] explores the intrinsic advantage that a community has over an individual in generating wisdom: an individual is limited by their single perspective, whereas a community contains many perspectives, diverse capacities, wide-ranging knowledge. An important task of government and leadership is helping communities translate their diversity into usable wisdom.

Co-Intelligence and the Holistic Politics of Community Self-Organization [35K] describes, from a permaculture perspective, some design principles for self-organizing communities. Includes notes on leadership, co-intelligence, a couple of dozen tools for self-organization and dialogue, the spectrum of politics and the powerful formula REPRESENTATIVE DIVERSITY + CONSENSUS PROCESS = POLITICAL WISDOM. The application of this formula is explored further in Citizen consensus councils [10K] which describes a process design (of which there are a half-dozen existing different models) that could be the foundation of a far more co-intelligent democratic order (see also citizen deliberative councils). Citizen consensus councils and direct democracy [9K] explores how to integrate the two approaches. (For lots of other community-level co-intelligence materials, see Community Co-Intelligence )

Pat & Pat, a view from 2020 (fiction by Tom Atlee) a futuristic, down-home story about a new, co-intelligent politics. It tells how Patrick and Patricia McFallow become co-mayors of Story City, Iowa, in 2016. During their four-year mayorship they engage thousands of citizens in powerful, empowering conversations about what they want their community to be like and how they can change it. Of course, the community starts changing, brilliantly and fast.

Political Life: Moving from Collective Stupidity to Collective Intelligence [27K] provides clear guidelines for how to redesign our public life for greater collective intelligence. Also see A closer look at societal co-stupidity.

Thoughts on Co-Intelligent Social Change [11K] - A compilation of lists including "Guidelines for co-intelligent social change," "Notes on positive, co-intelligent social change actions" and "Some possible characteristics of a co-intelligent society (to guide our social change efforts)" -- all written for social change activists.

Co-Intelligence and Social Change [20K] - The first and perhaps best description of co-intelligence for social change activists. See also Co-Intelligence and Issue Activism and The Search for a More Deeply Alive, Effective Activism.

Feedback, Social Power, the Evolution of Social Systems [23K] explores the role of feedback in evolution and learning, in the evolution of intelligence, and in the health and transformation of social systems, noting the critical crossroads we've come to and the possibly mythic role of concentrated wealth in the coming transformation.

Co-Intelligence as an Approach to Transformational Social Change [14K] is a somewhat technical paper written as a chapter for a book on Transformational Social Change (I have no idea if it ever was published!). It features the role of synergy (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) and "holergy" (a part is greater than its role in any whole) in creating change.

Jumping from the Hot Pot: Notes on Democracy in a Technological Age [55K] is a critique of exceedingly risky scientific and technological developments, with suggestions about how co-intelligent political approaches could monitor them to avoid catastrophe.

A "scientific" democratic process? [7K] - Is it possible to replicate group wisdom with a different set of participants, just as one replicates experimental results in another laboratory?

Holistic Approaches to Politics and Social Change

Using Synergy, Diversity and Wholeness to Create a Wisdom Culture [45K]- Here is the theory underlying holistic politics. It explores the "more than" in the common phrase "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" -- especially analyzing different types synergy and the ways in which the whole and part embody, contain or connect with each other. The resulting lessons are explicitly applied to the challenge of evoking the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole.

Changing Worldviews, Changing Politics [6K] - This brief, cogent article explains how democracy is based on the "old paradigm" of Newtonian mechanics -- and how holistic "new paradigm" understandings require a new perspective on politics. A somewhat longer version of this thesis, with many practical applications of holism to political life, can be found in Thinking Holistically beyond Politics and Governance [14K]. (Both of these could be put in the section above, but they focus on the holistic paradigm, rather than co-intelligence, so I've placed them here. -- Tom)

The Politics of Human Potential [11K] - A letter about collective intelligence to California State Senator John Vasconcellos who proposed a politics based on human potential. The letter suggests (a) that we need to enhance citizens' collective capacity for generating wisdom, (b) that this is the proper role of politics and (c) that the Senator could advocate this as part of enhancing our collective human potential. Includes a great quote from John Dewey on the role of intelligence in a democracy.

Transformational Politics - [40K] Tom Atlee's first major article on the subject in 1991, revised in Sept 1999, which contains the unique 6-band "Spectrum of Political Engagement" and explores how we might develop the two upper bands, cooperative politics and holistic politics, and what the nature of such "Transitional Politics" might be. A briefer exploration of a similar spectrum can be found in "Transformational Politics (draft outline)" [10K].

Beyond positions: a politics of civic co-creativity [12K] Tom Atlee's commentary on the 2000 Presidential elections, noting that "Taking positions prevents us from moving towards each other, and with each other, to find options that better meet the needs of all involved, including the needs of the communities and societies in which we live."

Requirements for Success [8K] - Robert Theobald's wise, popular credo for cultural transformers, developed with his colleagues in the Transformational Learning Community.

Collective Intelligence in the Solar Age [8K] - Hazel Henderson describes in one page a global social vision of balance between competition and cooperation -- and between left and right brain thinking -- moderated by numerous social and economic feedback systems and informed by Gaia. She suggests that this approach would allow us to evolve into an era of gentle, intelligent, collaborative democracies.

A New Paradigm Democracy Movement? - [11K] Tom Atlee suggests that many recent democratic innovations could add up to a new holistic political order, if we could just get together and explore how that might be the case. He proposes a set of assumptions to gather around and some steps interested parties could take now.

The Search for a More Deeply Alive, Effective Activism [14K] Tom Atlee outlines an inquiry into more holistic forms of activism, including an essay on Activism and the New Science: Some Lessons for Action in a Nonlinear World.

Spiritual Politics: (see links below)

Other parts of this site relevant to co-intelligent politics

The overarching mission of this co-intelligence work (as represented by this site) is human co-evolution. From a co-intelligence perspective, politics should also be about co-evolution -- the way we collectively, progressively change our policies, institutions and societes. So you will find that many of the ideas, methods and examples of co-intelligence offered in this site have potential political applications, even when they weren't first designed for that. The following parts of this site are significant resources for co-intelligent politics.

Other relevant articles

Moving Beyond Power Plays to Collaboration [11K] by Kenoli Oleari

Feedback loops, resilence, financial systems and Y2K by Tom Atlee

Co-intelligence thoughts on Seattle WTO demonstrations by Tom Atlee and others


Spiritual activism/politics articles and sites:

Three pieces by Tom Atlee on the spiritual underpinnings of collective intellience and wise democracy:

"Spirit and Stardust" speech by US Rep Dennis Kucinich

"Politics as Spiritual Practice" speech by former mayor Larry Robinson

Caroline Casey's Center for Visionary Activism - a wild, politically conscious, extremely alive and visionary mix of astrology and many forms of spirituality.

The Global Renaissance Alliance is a citizen-based, international network of spiritual activists called to take a stand in our local and national communities for the role of spiritual principle in solving the problems of the world.

The Center for Visionary Leadership's interesting site on spirituality and politics , features explorations of how to apply spiritual principles to social problems and citizenship, and includes a nascent effort to organize spiritually-oriented voters.


Other New Perspectives on Politics

Paul Ray's "New Political Compass" -- Post-materialist social and consciousness movements are shifting politics in the Western world beyond left vs. right to a 4-directional politics that resembles a political compass. The New Political Compass is summarized in YES! magazine on and you can download the full report (167kb) at