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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Occupy this Book!
The philosophy outlined here presaged the sudden appearance and force of the Occupy Wall St. movement. Written with courage and candor by a former instrument of a nation (British diplomat, envoy to the UN}, it's revealing that the author not only regrets his past involvement with falsely justified and failed policy, but that he has come to reject the very notion of nation...
Published on January 14, 2012 by Traveler

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pointless Revolution
It is strange how, without knowing each other, Carne Ross and I always sit on opposite sides of the fence. He was a UK diplomat whose job it was to secure legitimacy to deadly sanctions and an armed intervention in Iraq; I was a fervent supporter of Dominique de Villepin's speech at the UN, vigorously opposing war. He founded an NGO whose mission statement is to "provide...
Published 12 months ago by Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE


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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Occupy this Book!, January 14, 2012
This review is from: The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century (Kindle Edition)
The philosophy outlined here presaged the sudden appearance and force of the Occupy Wall St. movement. Written with courage and candor by a former instrument of a nation (British diplomat, envoy to the UN}, it's revealing that the author not only regrets his past involvement with falsely justified and failed policy, but that he has come to reject the very notion of nation states' ability to solve any serious problems at all. Mr. Ross adroitly weaves in a narrative of his personal experiences, describing his attempts to mediate crises in the Balkans and the Middle East; hamstrung, as he came to understand, by his immersion in a myopic culture of modern noblesse oblige. There's insights throughout and even a constructive reinterpretation of the "Golden Rule" to be considered. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about why the multi-dimensional challenges we're facing aren't going to be addressed effectively by anyone in positions of power - now or evermore. Instead you'll learn how you might act yourself from your own convictions, and along with many others doing the same, effect the change we need.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 for Superficial Overview, 3 for Pretense, May 13, 2012
It is unfortunate that Amazon's superb "Look Inside the Book" has been limited by the publisher to only the introduction, as I would like the potential buyer to have a much greater feel for the book that the reviews or the few front pages can offer, before making a decision.

Here is the bottom line: nothing in this book is a new insight, and I am astonished by the claimed editorial reviews, as they seem oblivious of the decades of work by others in the areas of co-evolution, panarachy, collective intelligence, hybrid governance, open source everything, small is beautiful, human scale, Epoch B, resilience, intelligence at the edges of the network, etcetera. In other words, this book is more of a "quickie" book, not at all the "deeply researched" effort that is claimed, and it is at best a survey that barely scratches the surface of my two master lists, of lists of book reviews I have done here at Amazon, a means of reading all my reviews sorted into many categories (including the future of democracy, of capitalism, etcetera). The positive list is the one to focus on for everything that this author attempts to convey, and points to many of the sources that the book does not cite. Both lists were the foundation for my 2010 book listed below after my name. The negative list documents the obvious, but with a structure that has been lacking in critiques to date, most are incoherent for lack of an analytic model. To get to the link, just search for full name of the list as shown below.

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)

Now within the ten link limit that Amazon has established,

The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all
Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Human Scale
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents (Hardcover))

Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems
Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World
Designing a World That Works for All: How the Youth of the World are Creating Real-World Solutions for the UN Millenium Development Goals and Beyond
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

Now, being somewhat jaded on this particular book, but recognizing how limited time and money are for most people, I end by observing that this book can indeed serve as a primer for those who do not read broadly and do not have the time to read the wealth of information available on the Internet for free in terms of cost, but requiring time and insight to acquire. At Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog I have a Links page that can make this much easier, here I will just mention the Co-Intelligence Institute and Reality Sandwich.

Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity & Sustainability
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pointless Revolution, November 17, 2013
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It is strange how, without knowing each other, Carne Ross and I always sit on opposite sides of the fence. He was a UK diplomat whose job it was to secure legitimacy to deadly sanctions and an armed intervention in Iraq; I was a fervent supporter of Dominique de Villepin's speech at the UN, vigorously opposing war. He founded an NGO whose mission statement is to "provide diplomatic services to people who need it most"; I have always been concerned by the rampant privatization of government services, from armed mercenaries to hired PR consultants. He helped new states or struggling ethnic minorities carve their territory on the map; I am of the opinion that there are already too many nation-states around, and that the future belongs to superstates or federal unions like the EU. He joined the crowd occupying Wall Street and approved of their demands and participatory methods; I take these demonstrations as empty sloganeering and a disturbance to public order. He is a self-proclaimed anarchist and wants to make the world a better place, one individual at a time; I believe in social hierarchies and I would surmise that philosophers (to reverse Marx's famous thesis) have hitherto devoted too much time to changing the world in various ways; the point now is to interpret it.

I don't deny Carne Ross a certain form of courage: he stands up to his opinions, and carries his convictions to their ultimate consequences. He resigned from the UK's diplomatic corps over his country's involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq, confirming belatedly what protester all over Europe had been claiming all along. He is not afraid to label himself an anarchist, in the manner of English writer George Orwell, who took up arms to fight alongside the Spanish Republicans in 1936. Carne Ross's faits d'armes are more modest: he worked for a UN mission in Kosovo, helping the country gain its independence from Serbia; and he campaigned for the Sahrawis who are trying to achieve autonomy from Morocco. In addition to these activities undertaken by his advocacy consultancy, he encourages ordinary people to give shelter to political refugees, like his parents did when he was a kid--he admits he couldn't do it in his own home--and, in more general terms, he stresses the importance of "meeting people" and "talking to each other". Or, as he expounds: "Whenever possible, travel, interact, make love, argue, live with people elsewhere. Engage; co-mingle."

Carne Ross stresses repeatedly that "The Leaderless Revolution is not demanding the violent overthrow of government, or anything else." As he describes it somewhat obscurely, "it is a different vision, of individuals and groups peacefully organizing their affairs, arbitrating necessary business directly with one another, guided by their conviction and direct experience--not by party political dogma." There is only one word for this vision: utopia. I have no problem with that. People need a long-term vision or ultimate goals to motivate their action, and anarchy--the sovereign power of each individual--is as good as any. Where I am more concerned is when the author deems that "every act is political", leaving no place for other pursuit or belief. His encompassing ideal takes the form of a religion without religion, a secular creed that emphasizes the here and the now while it refuses to bow to neither god nor master. True to the message of utopian socialism, the author endorses the well-known thesis of the withering of the state: "One day, so strong may be this new culture of collective collaboration, and this mesh of different networks of cooperation, that our existing institutions, based on the singularizing, centralizing unit of national government, and indeed the notion of the nation state, may wither away." In other words, the independent diplomat he claims to be wants to put other diplomats out of business.

I also concur with his statement that, in order to make this ideal end-state happen, people should eschew from merely campaigning or signing petitions. "There is scant evidence to suggest that any significant government policy has been informed or altered by tweeting or the fancy online tools set up, for instance, by the U.S. State Department to encourage a 'global conversation'". I could not put it more eloquently. What, then, is there to do? Apart from "co-mingling", he gives suggestions that seem to come straight out of Oxfam's or other UK charities' stock-in-trade. Support fair trade and corporate social responsibility: "When you're buying, you're voting". Oppose the expulsion of illegal immigrants: "If concerned about refugees from a distant war, give refuge". When you really care about an issue and want to pressure wrong-doers, use boycott, public shaming, or, in the most extreme cases, hunger strikes and sabotage. Above all, "Don't campaign for others to perform the action required to achieve change: Do it yourself." The ideals or ultimate goals, here, are only secondary: what matters are the means rather than the end. Indeed, as he states in a chapter's heading, "the means are the ends".

In my opinion, the best part in the book is the Bildungsroman describing the author's coming-of-age in the Foreign Office and his epiphany when working on Iraq sanctions at the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, he has already told this story in his previous book, sometimes in the exact same terms. I couldn't help but feeling cheated by this repetition. This former book, Independent Diplomat, was more centered on his field of expertise, namely international relations, while in The Leaderless Revolution he ventures into the area of finance or the global environment, where he has less original things to say. His plan to restore financial stability and save the world from future crises--increase capital ratios, promote mutual banks and credit unions--is just that: a plan, which may or may not work, but which has little chance of being implemented. In my opinion, Carne Ross is most eloquent when he lectures diplomats and foreign policy makers and tries to shake them out of their apathy. What he shouldn't do is to try to lecture the OWS crowd or Wall Street bankers--who surely know better.

Carne Ross gives his political musings a veneer of scientific legitimacy by quoting from popular science books and essays, from The Wisdom of Crowds to The Tipping Point. His basic idea is that "in an interconnected system, such as the world emerging in the twenty-first century, the action of one individual or a small group can affect the whole system very rapidly." Again, I was not convinced by his references to network dynamics, self-organizations, or the "science of complex systems". Instead of praising the power of the individual, he could have expounded more on the effects of groupthink and herding behavior. Popular science can become conventional to the point of boredom: I did not need to read yet another retelling of the Stanley Milgram experiment, whereby participants inflict torturing pain to fake patients through increasingly powerful electric shocks.

Much of Carne Ross' plaidoyer is based on a "I've been there, done that" argument. But has he really? Here I must confess that I am not familiar with the functioning of the British diplomatic corps, but I wonder: has he really accumulated the experience he describes, working from Hebron and Dresden to Oslo and Islamabad, from the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the streets of Pristina? Does a posting in the UK delegation to the UN qualify one to be described as "a former British diplomat to Iraq", as alleged on the book's back cover? And what's the point in stating on several occasions that one counts high ranking politicians among one's friends, when the whole book is devoted to undermining politicians' claim to rule over our lives? When the author says that he was the head of the Middle East section at the British Mission to the UN, he doesn't specify how many staff worked in this section; my hunch is, it was just he. Carne Ross insists that even junior diplomats have much leeway in framing an issue and shaping its outcome. On any particular topic like UN sanctions, the players are very few, they are the only ones to master the technical details, and they are accountable to no one. But he may overstate his case when he personally takes the blame and holds himself accountable for the premature death of half a million Iraqi children. For good and for bad, a modicum of modesty is in order.

All is not to be jettisoned in this book. As I mentioned, the parts on the backstage of diplomatic negotiations are really illuminating, and I recommend them to people who haven't read the author's previous book. In addition, The Leaderless Revolution is well-written, sometimes with passion and emotion, and with many soundbites and formulas that could easily find their way in a politician's speech. I also share with Carne Ross a certain proclivity for literature and good prose. I will always applaud when he includes quotes from Victor Hugo ("Frontiers will be dead, royalty will be dead, dogmas will be dead, man will begin to live") or William Butler Yeats ("Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"). I was interested by his drawing the reader's attention to George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, a dreadful account of Communist suppression of the anarchists in war-torn Spain, or by his personal interpretation of Tolstoi's War and Peace, stressing the power of independent action by individuals who alone can supersede and bring down authority.

Indeed, I would have liked him to discuss in more detail key texts of anarchism--from Emerson to Bakunin--as well as contemporary philosophers who advocate a complete overhaul of the political order, from Hart and Negri to Badiou and Zizek. In this respect, I found The Leaderless Revolution light on theoretical references. But here is the key point: my interest for anarchist thinking and critical theory is merely intellectual, and I am far from espousing the political agenda of the various factions and sects who claim these thinkers as their source of inspiration. I think anarchism is pretty cool, as long as you don't take it too seriously. Likewise, I like Picasso and Cubism, but I wouldn't dream of reducing the world to square figures or blue colors to suit my taste.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting there. . ., April 22, 2012
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Ross has his sights set correctly on the inability of centralized authority to solve most of the global challenges confronting humankind. Governments have neither the knowledge of specific places under their control nor the money to make a difference. His insights as a former British diplomat are insightful and interesting. At the same time, the force of his essay falters at the end when he tries to craft a set of responses to the challenge. I'm glad I purchased and read the book, it is a useful touchstone in my work organizing local communities. Hopefully another author will pick up the theme and further expand the ideas with information on current movements towards local control whether in food production and distribution or dealing with other needed changes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I would recommend to a friend interested in direct action or the OWS movement, January 15, 2013
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Good book although a little idealistic. I used this for a book report for a college class. The teacher liked my work and I did make an A. Easy, quick read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaderless revolution, May 31, 2012
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The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century by Carne Ross, [...] , Blue Rider Press, 2011, 244 pages.
As a child Carne Ross dreamed of being in the British Foreign Service. The dream slowly turned into a nightmare as he became convinced that governments and organizations of governments are the problem and not the solution. He thinks people need to represent themselves and set the agenda. Representative democracy represents the elite and the power structure. Our representatives say "elect me and I will solve the problem". But Ross says they cannot. Only we can set the agenda and define what we need and what needs to be done. When we defer to authority we abandon our personal integrity, humanity and empathy. Then we can do terrible things. Stanley Milgram's experiment [...], had actors playing the role of both the authority and the victim but the person being asked to give a "potentially fatal dose of electricity" believed it was real. The experiment showed that ordinary people, if told by an authority to give a "fatal" dose of electricity and if the authority took "full" responsible for the result, 65% would give the potentially "fatal" dose of 450-volts and only one participant refused to go beyond 300-volts. At 300-volts the supposed victim screamed and begged for the experiment to stop.
Ross was one of only two British Foreign Service members to resign over the lies that led to the second Iraq war.
In his preface Ross says, "Things do not seem to be going as planned. The system is broken. Meant to bring order, it formants instead disorder. We need something new. The end of the Cold War was supposed to presage the triumph of democracy and with it, stability. Globalization was supposed to launch everyone upon an eternal rising wave of prosperity. Some called it "The End of History". But history has instead opened another unpredicted chapter... The promise of capitalism seems more and more hollow. As its benefits are ever more unevenly shared, it has created a culture that cherishes much that is worst in human nature. Too much modern work is demeaning or humiliating, or simply boring. Little offers meaning in the exhausting yet often banal race to get ahead or at least to make ends meet, there is little time for others, for the community that seems ever more fractured, or for an ever more poisoned planet... The political class now appears more part of the problem than the solution. Even politicians complain about "politicians." ... In democratic systems, it has become evident what is more obvious in autocracies - power is monopolized by the powerful." Ross then goes on to say... "There are four simple ideas at the heart of The Leaderless Revolution. Together they suggest a radically different approach to conducting our affairs. First is that in an increasingly interconnected system, such as the world emerging in the 21st century, the action of one individual or small group can affect the whole system very rapidly...The second key idea is that it is action that convinces, not words... The third key idea is about engagement and discussion. Again it is a simple idea; decision-making is better when it includes the people most affected ... This hints at the fourth idea that suffuses the argument throughout The Leaderless Revolution, agency, the power to decide matters for ourselves. We have lost agency. We need to take it back... If we take back agency, and bring ourselves closer to managing our affairs for ourselves, then something else may also come about; we may find a fulfillment and satisfaction... No one can claim to know what others truly want. These needs and concerns and dreams can be expressed only through action, shared decision-making and discussion with those most affected, including those who might disagree... We have been silenced by the pervasive belief that there is no better system than the current one of profit-driven capitalism and representative democracy, when in fact our democracy has been hijacked by those with the largest profits."
I was reminded of a cartoon in the New Yorker with two Russians, in large furry caps, walking by the Kremlin Wall and one says, "Life must be a terrible in democracies with nothing but choice-choice choice all the time". I think the problem that Ross does not address is that most people most of the time are terrified of choice and responsibility and we welcome anyone willing to act like an authority. Even though we constantly complain about what "authority" does, we humans created political structure, and if it survives, it has uses. Perhaps some of its value is psychological. We all know, at least unconsciously, that we have a very dark side. If you have any doubts about the dark side than look at the movies we watch, the plays we see, the books we read and the dreams we have. We do some very interesting things with our dark side. One is that we project our sinister qualities into other people and then feel we must punish or control them. If we face our dark side and struggle with it we often get depressed. Paranoia is a great though temporary relief for depression. But, as in our childhood nightmares, something is constantly following us and we cannot escape. So authority gives us the illusion that the leaders can control the bad in other people and ourselves. Like rebellious adolescents we constantly complain about what government etc. does, but quickly retreat to submission out of fear of our own inability to control ourselves and our even greater fear that others won't control of their behavior. I suspect this is the reason that most idealized, democratic and altruistic social experiments (including primitive Christianity) fail. Altruistic social groups that rely on consensus and self-control, Communism for example, usually degenerated into a system of rigorous and punitive control and it was even worse than what existed under the czars. Most revolutions that aim to change social custom end in unacceptable chaos followed by repressive dictatorships. Even non-violent revolutions fail more often than they succeed.

On the other hand I was lucky to be part of three leaderless groups-and all were successful. However they were small groups of 5 to 8 people with similar goals and from similar backgrounds and cultures. Also there was nothing to be gained or lost by being either a leader or a follower. What happened in these groups was that the leadership shifted depending on the topic and everyone seemed to accept this quite easily. Above all we were friends first and discussants second. Is this possible in a large group like church or business or a small city or even a country? I think that is an interesting question. I suspect that if enough of us saw, accepted and adequately trained our dark sides it would be possible. Time will tell.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Leaderless revolution, May 30, 2012
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This book, regardless of one's political position, is an exceptionally well written, in-depth look at our government, our economy and corporations. It is an extremely poignant argument for how we, as individuals, can impact change in a system that has been failing in so many areas of our society. Carne Ross is a brilliant man whose insight and experience leads him to a major change in his position regarding many sources of power that must be challenged. His model for change is exceptional.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good info, August 20, 2014
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This review is from: The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century (Kindle Edition)
In total, this book is more of an open apology of past transgressions, than a blue print to change.
I do not believe for a minute that the riff raf in the streets were anything but that. Opportunistic vultures, looking for something to do and free stuff for the taking.
The author does point out the starts of past change, The White Coat chapter is especially thought provoking. The common person will blindly obey totally wrong leadership. I see it all the time in local bureaucracies, always accompanied with "I'm just doin my job".
If you think your government is doing fine, you aught to have read. If you think somebody aught to do something about societies ills;
This is something to chew on. Maybe that somebody is you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book necessary for understanding the world a bit better, February 10, 2014
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Angel Rua (Illes Balears) - See all my reviews
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There are many books trying to explain many facts that are happening in our world. I think "The Leaderless Revolution" does. Or, at least, it is very close.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Manifesto that Presaged the Occupy Movement, January 8, 2014
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This review is from: The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century (Kindle Edition)
Carne Ross is a fascinating man. His previous book, "Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite" is one of the most insightful and engrossing books you'll ever read on diplomacy. The organization he founded, also called "Independent Diplomat," is regularly profiled by impressed journalists.

This book came out shortly before the Occupy movement really took off, and its inception must have come long before that. When it first came out, I recall thinking that the book perhaps owed something to the 19th century British anarchist, William Godwin. Ross's take on the troubles on modern society were acute and perceptive, but his suggested cures seemed more suitable for the small, agrarian, Kibbutz-like "anarchy" advocated by Godwin rather than the modern world. Occupy, however, at least briefly suggested these ideas might have a place in a globalized age. The subsequent history of the movement has, of course, been choppy. Ross himself has taken some hits for supposedly compromising on its principles. I think, though, that if you read this book you'll see these moves (such as the "Occupy Debit Card") are not compromises; rather, they are utterly in line with Ross's aim of imposing workable structures on an otherwise chaotic concept.

In short, it's worth reading if this is your first encounter with it, or with Ross. And it's worth re-reading even if you're already familiar with the author.
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