The Meeting pp 47-86 | Cite as

Meetings as Tools/Meetings as Topics

  • Helen B. Schwartzman


Historically, face-to-face meetings have played an important role in the social, and especially the political, life of Western and non-Western societies. Jane Mansbridge (1983) argues that the concept of unitary democracy is the oldest and longest-lived form of human organization and face-to-face meetings and unitary democracy go hand in hand because it is this context that makes it possible to formalize and extend to the level of a polity the relations of friendship (p. 8):

The Greeks were aware of this connection. With the phrase, “Friendship [philia] appears to hold city-states together” Aristotle illuminates the bond between citizens in a unitary polity.... Drawing from the experience of friendship, a democrat could easily believe that relations between citizens ought to be like relations between friends. Friends are equals. They choose to spend time together. They share common values. They expand in each other’s company. So, too, in a democracy based on friendship, participants are equal in status; the costs of participation, of which some make so much, do not feel heavy. Citizens “fly to the assemblies” as if to meet their friends. They value the time they spend on their common affairs. They share a common good, and are able, as a consequence, to make their decisions unanimously. The characteristics of unitary democracy—equal respect, face-to-face contact, common interest, and consensus—are from this perspective nothing but the natural conditions that prevail among friends. (pp. 8–9)


Meeting Group Communicative Event Participatory Democracy Unitary Democracy Meeting Form 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen B. Schwartzman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Center for Urban Affairs and Policy ResearchNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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