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...or is ideology here to stay? The case for a new golden rule: "shared values first"

In the last post I made the case that perhaps, if we could engage in political discourse without ideology, we might find more synergies between seemingly opposite points of view. Is it possible to break down polarized politics by removing ideology from the equation, and focusing on specific policies, localities, and data?

Boris DeWiel, "Democracy: A History of Ideas", (2000)
Political scientists such as Boris DeWiel would suggest that the answer is no; that politics is fundamentally a contest of values, and political discourse boils down to alternate conceptions of a "good" society. His book, Democracy: A History of Ideas, reminds us that our political differences are often the result of the values that are most important to us. For some: personal and individual liberty, for others: equality and fairness. These values are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there's nothing inherently wrong with values such as these. Our difficulties begin when we prioritize a given value over another, and focus on a particular value at the exclusion of others.

Is this exclusion necessary? Arguably, values should drive actual behaviour and decision-making. And if decisions are made, alternate possibilities are excluded. A particular direction is chosen over another.

But what if, instead, decision-making processes were to begin by exploring shared values, and revealing values that are held in common? Perhaps our trouble with ideology stems not from an ideal conception of the "good", but in the dogmatic pursuit of values to the exclusion another? Rather than try and articulate the values that are most important to us individually, perhaps we should engage in a perpetual search for the values that we hold in common with one another.

To adopt this approach, the key first step would be an open exploration of values, and an agreement not to proceed (debating, discussing, whatever), until shared values had been unearthed. The various participants in a decision-making process would be asked to prioritize the realization of shared values, rather than try to convince others to take sides with their respective ideals.

These shared values could then become a shared framework, between multiple parties, to engage in thoughtful decision-making. The process would focus on values held in common, and would exclude values that are not shared by all participants. This is, in fact, often an important process piece for many facilitators: leading participants in the creation of a group agreement. But what if we were to explore and reveal deeply held political values in the early stages of decision-making.

What would that make possible?


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